The World And The Quietist

A poem by Matthew Arnold

Why, when the World’s great mind
Hath finally inclin’d,
Why, you say, Critias, be debating still?
Why, with these mournful rhymes
Learn’d in more languid climes,
Blame our activity,
Who, with such passionate will,
Are, what we mean to be?

Critias, long since, I know,
(For Fate decreed it so,)
Long since the World hath set its heart to live.
Long since with credulous zeal
It turns Life’s mighty wheel;
Still doth for labourers send,
Who still their labour give;
And still expects an end.

Yet, as the wheel flies round,
With no ungrateful sound
Do adverse voices fall on the World’s ear.
Deafen’d by his own stir
The rugged Labourer
Caught not till then a sense
So glowing and so near
Of his omnipotence.

So, when the feast grew loud
In Susa’s palace proud,
A white-rob’d slave stole to the Monarch’s side.
He spoke: the Monarch heard:
Felt the slow-rolling word
Swell his attentive soul.
Breath’d deeply as it died,
And drain’d his mighty bowl.

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