Sunday, December 8, 2013

'To Marguerite'

YES: in the sea of life enisled,
With echoing straits between us thrown.
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow,
And then their endless bounds they know.

But when the moon their hollow lights,
And they are swept by balms of spring,
And in their glens, on starry nights,
The nightingales divinely sing;
And lovely notes, from shore to shore,
Across the sounds and channels pour;

O then a longing like despair
Is to their farthest caverns sent!
For surely once, they feel, we were
Parts of a single continent.
Now round us spreads the watery plain–
O might our marges meet again!

Who order’d that their longing’s fire
Should be, as soon as kindled, cool’d?
Who renders vain their deep desire?–
A God, a God their severence ruled;
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea.

Matthew Arnold


  1. Yes. 'The unplumb'd salt, estranging sea' was a line I originally found in Fowles' French Lieutenant's Woman. I used it in an earlier draft of Exiles, about the men who sailed into unknown waters on the west of the continent. Love this poem though, it speaks of more things than mere sailing.

  2. Longing, melancholy beauty, separation.