Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Extracts from Dipsychus: In Venice; Dipsychus Speaks
By Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861)
 
                    O HAPPY hours!
O compensation ample for long days
Of what impatient tongues call wretchedness!
O beautiful, beneath the magic moon,
To walk the watery way of palaces!        5
O beautiful, o’ervaulted with gemmed blue,
This spacious court, with colour and with gold,
With cupolas, and pinnacles, and points.
And crosses multiplex, and tips and balls
(Wherewith the bright stars unreproving mix,        10
Nor scorn by hasty eyes to be confused);
Fantastically perfect this low pile
Of Oriental glory; these long ranges
Of classic chiselling, this gay flickering crowd,
And the calm Campanile. Beautiful!        15
O, beautiful! and that seemed more profound,
This morning by the pillar when I sat
Under the great arcade, at the review,
And took, and held, and ordered on my brain
The faces, and the voices, and the whole mass        20
O’ the motley facts of existence flowing by!
O perfect, if ’twere all! But it is not;
Hints haunt me ever of a more beyond:
I am rebuked by a sense of the incomplete,
Of a completion ever soon assumed,        25
Of adding up too soon. What we call sin,
I could believe a painful opening out
Of paths for ampler virtue. The bare field,
Scant with lean ears of harvest, long had mocked
The vext laborious farmer; came at length        30
The deep plough in the lazy undersoil
Down-driving; with a cry earth’s fibres crack,
And a few months, and lo! the golden leas,
And autumn’s crowded shocks and loaded wains.
Let us look back on life; was any change,        35
Any now blest expansion, but at first
A pang, remorse-like, shot to the inmost seats
Of moral being? To do anything,
Distinct on any one thing to decide,
To leave the habitual and the old, and quit        40
The easy-chair of use and wont, seems crime
To the weak soul, forgetful how at first
Sitting down seemed so too. And, oh! this woman’s heart,
Fain to be forced, incredulous of choice,
And waiting a necessity for God.        45
  Yet I could think, indeed, the perfect call
Should force the perfect answer. If the voice
Ought to receive its echo from the soul,
Wherefore this silence? If it should rouse my being,
Why this reluctance? Have I not thought o’ermuch        50
Of other men, and of the ways of the world?
But what they are, or have been, matters not.
To thine own self be true, the wise man says.
Are then my fears myself? O double self!
And I untrue to both! Oh, there are hours,        55
When love, and faith, and dear domestic ties,
And converse with old friends, and pleasant walks,
Familiar faces, and familiar books,
Study, and art, upliftings unto prayer,
And admiration of the noblest things,        60
Seem all ignoble only; all is mean,
And nought as I would have it. Then at others,
My mind is in her rest; my heart at home
In all around; my soul secure in place,
And the vext needle perfect to her poles.        65
Aimless and hopeless in my life I seem
To thread the winding byways of the town,
Bewildered, baffled, hurried hence and thence,
All at cross-purpose even with myself,
Unknowing whence or whither. Then at once,        70
At a step, I crown the Campanile’s top,
And view all mapped below; islands, lagoon,
A hundred steeples and a million roofs,
The fruitful champaign, and the cloud-capt Alps,
And the broad Adriatic. Be it enough;        75
If I lose this, how terrible! No, no,
I am contented, and will not complain.
To the old paths, my soul! Oh, be it so!
I bear the workday burden of dull life
About these footsore flags of a weary world,        80
Heaven knows how long it has not been; at once,
Lo! I am in the spirit on the Lord’s day
With John in Patmos. Is it not enough,
One day in seven? and if this should go,
If this pure solace should desert my mind,        85
What were all else? I dare not risk this loss.
To the old paths, my soul!
 
 
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