To My Friends

A poem by Matthew Arnold

Laugh, my Friends, and without blame
Lightly quit what lightly came:
Rich to-morrow as to-day
Spend as madly as you may.
I, with little land to stir,
Am the exacter labourer.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

But my Youth reminds me ‘Thou
Hast liv’d light as these live now:
As these are, thou too wert such:
Much hast had, hast squander’d much.’
Fortune’s now less frequent heir,
Ah! I husband what’s grown rare.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

Young, I said: ‘A face is gone
If too hotly mus’d upon:
And our best impressions are
Those that do themselves repair.’
Many a face I then let by,
Ah! is faded utterly.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

Marguerite says: ‘As last year went,
So the coming year’ll be spent:
Some day next year, I shall be,
Entering heedless, kiss’d by thee.’
Ah! I hope, yet, once away,
What may chain us, who can say?
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

Paint that lilac kerchief, bound
Her soft face, her hair around:
Tied under the archest chin
Mockery ever ambush’d in.
Let the fluttering fringes streak
All her pale, sweet-rounded cheek.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

Paint that figure’s pliant grace
As she towards me lean’d her face,
Half refus’d and half resign’d,
Murmuring, ‘Art thou still unkind?’
Many a broken promise then
Was new made, to break again.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

Paint those eyes, so blue, so kind,
Eager tell-tales of her mind
Paint, with their impetuous stress
Of inquiring tenderness,
Those frank eyes, where deep doth lie
An angelic gravity.
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

What, my Friends, these feeble lines
Show, you say, my love declines?
To paint ill as I have done,
Proves forgetfulness begun?
Time’s gay minions, pleas’d you see,
Time, your master, governs me.
Pleas’d, you mock the fruitless cry
‘Quick, thy tablets, Memory! ‘

Ah! too true. Time’s current strong
Leaves us true to nothing long.
Yet, if little stays with man,
Ah! retain we all we can
If the clear impression dies,
Ah! the dim remembrance prize
Ere the parting hour go by,
Quick, thy tablets, Memory!

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