The Buried Life

The Buried Life

Matthew Arnold

. . .I knew the mass of men conceal’d
their thoughts, for fear that if revealed
they would by other men be met
with blank indifference, or with blame reprov’d:
I knew they lived and moved
tricked 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–does a like spell benumb
our hearts–our voices?–must we too be dumb?

. . .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 that beats
so wild, so deep in us to know
whence our thoughts 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 talent 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 forever unexpressed.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
our hidden self, and what we say and do
is eloquent, is well–but ‘its not true.

. . .Only–but this is rare–
when a beloved hand is laid in ours,
when jaded with the rush and glare
of the interminable hour,
our eyes can in another’s eyes read clear,
when our world-deafened ear
is by the tones of a loved voice caressed–
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 forever 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.

emphasis mine

So hard to hang on to, even when we know.

Oh, to always be on our own line, to always be ourselves.


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