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The Buried Life - Poem by Matthew Arnold

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.
Yes, yes, we know that we can jest,
We know, we know that we can smile!
But there's a something in this breast,
To which thy light words bring no rest,
And thy gay smiles no anodyne.
Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.

Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

But we, my love!--doth a like spell benumb
Our hearts, our voices?--must we too be dumb?

Ah! well for us, if even we,
Even for a moment, can get free
Our heart, and have our lips unchain'd;
For that which seals them hath been deep-ordain'd!

Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby man would be--
By what distractions he would be possess'd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity--
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us--to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well--but 't#is not true!
And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.
Only--but this is rare--
When a belov{'e}d hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes.

Comments about The Buried Life by Matthew Arnold

  • Gold Star - 86,402 Points Terry Craddock (5/31/2015 9:00:00 PM)

    I knew the mass of men conceal'd
    Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
    They would by other men be met
    With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
    I knew they lived and moved
    Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
    Of men, and alien to themselves- and yet
    The same heart beats in every human breast!

    A very deep well penned poem worthy of several readings and meditation upon the meaning of lines. So much of Matthew Arnold's poetry is written with reflective beauty or a deep insight, I am often drawn in to think upon and explore similar themes, ideas tugging at meanings in life. Poems can be read so many ways and great poems such as this poem, will offer highlighted different focuses themes emotions upon different readings. Only one major theme will I address here, and in focus only one line, because the sentiment and meaning of the above which Matthew defines I agree with totally; yet all hearts are not the same because 'The same heart beats in every human breast! ' is true in the sense of an organic organ with the same purpose, yet same hearts are younger stronger or healthier than others, and metaphorically the same is true of the intentions sincerity purity of our beliefs and goodwill to others or not, what a beautiful world we would live in if all heats shared the desires aspirations of Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha to name but three. To return to the beginning

    Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet,
    Behold, with tears mine eyes are wet!
    I feel a nameless sadness o'er me roll.

    The poem 'The Buried Life' by Matthew Arnold is not a 5.5 as presently voted here, but a 10+++ for me, and thus I have voted, because this is a wonderful poem, ill judged perhaps because it is long and cannot be grasped in one swift rapid read? (Report) Reply

    3 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Rookie - 458 Points Samantha Belsey (5/31/2015 3:34:00 PM)

    Timeless poetic perfection. Touches the heart and soul with words expertly woven. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 458 Points Samantha Belsey (5/31/2015 3:24:00 PM)

    This is a insightful powerful poem and it resonated with me on a personal level. thank you (Report) Reply

Read all 4 comments »

Poems About Life

  1. 1. A Psalm Of Life , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  2. 2. The Life That I Have , Leo Marks
  3. 3. Life , Charlotte Brontë
  4. 4. Life In A Love , Robert Browning
  5. 5. A Life-Lesson , James Whitcomb Riley
  6. 6. An Old Life , Donald Hall
  7. 7. O Me! O Life! , Walt Whitman
  8. 8. The Pleasures Of Ordinary Life , Judith Viorst
  9. 9. What Is Life? , John Clare
  10. 10. The Buried Life , Matthew Arnold
  11. 11. Human Life , Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  12. 12. A Plain Life , William Henry Davies
  13. 13. Life In A Bottle , Robert Browning
  14. 14. New Love, New Life , Amy Levy
  15. 15. Life And Art , Emma Lazarus
  16. 16. Full Of Life, Now , Walt Whitman
  17. 17. My Life Closed Twice , Emily Dickinson
  18. 18. Later Life , Christina Georgina Rossetti
  19. 19. Love In A Life , Robert Browning
  20. 20. Ignorant Before The Heavens Of My Life , Rainer Maria Rilke
  21. 21. Life Life Life Life Life Life Life Life .. , Abdul Wahab
  22. 22. As I Ebb'D With The Ocean Of Life , Walt Whitman
  23. 23. What Is Life? , Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  24. 24. Too Much Of A Good Thing (Life Life Li.. , Udiah (witness to Yah)
  25. 25. Life , Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  26. 26. Life (The Real Meaning Of Life) , C.N.Premkumar (love poems, V ..
  27. 27. The Lords Of Life , Ralph Waldo Emerson
  28. 28. A Life , Howard Nemerov
  29. 29. An Image From A Past Life , William Butler Yeats
  30. 30. River Of Life, The , Thomas Campbell
  31. 31. The Life Of Man , Sir Francis Bacon
  32. 32. Life Is What Life Is , Edward Veilleux
  33. 33. Life Is Love, And Love Is Life , Anna Jonson
  34. 34. Each Life Converges To Some Centre , Emily Dickinson
  35. 35. Xxxvi Life-In-Love , Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  36. 36. Ebony Life , Robert Desnos
  37. 37. In The Morning Of Life , Thomas Moore
  38. 38. The Course Of Life, Time, And Events And.. , Merlin Archivilla
  39. 39. A Life Went Wrong.......The Denial Of Life , saadat tahir
  40. 40. The Treasure Of Life , Olive Walters
  41. 41. Life Beyond, The , Rupert Brooke
  42. 42. Still Life , Thom Gunn
  43. 43. A Life Of Death, Or The Death Of Life , Andre Veilleux
  44. 44. (c) 1 (Life/Philosophy) Life Is.... , Renu Rakheja a.k.a Tranquil ..
  45. 45. An Adventure In The Life Of King James V.. , William Topaz McGonagall
  46. 46. Views Of Life , Anne Brontë
  47. 47. Still-Life , Elizabeth Daryush
  48. 48. The Life Beyond , Rupert Brooke
  49. 49. Modern Love Iv: All Other Joys Of Life , George Meredith
  50. 50. Choice? (Life Life Life Life Life) , Udiah (witness to Yah)
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