Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), To a Friend
Who prop, thou ask'st in these bad days, my mind? --
He much, the old man, who, clearest-souled of men,
Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen,
And Tmolus hill, and Smyrna bay, though blind.
Much he, whose friendship I not long since won,
That halting slave, who in Nicopolis
Taught Arrian, when Vespasian's brutal son
Cleared Rome of what most shamed him. But be his
My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul,
From first youth tested up to extreme old age,
Business could not make dull, nor passion wild;
Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole;
The mellow glory of the Attic stage,
Singer of sweet Colonus, and its child.
The three ancient Greek writers in whom Arnold found support in bad days are not named directly, but he gives ample clues to their identity:
- Homer, whose Iliad takes place in Troy, a city of Asia Minor. According to tradition, he was a native of Smyrna and also blind.
- Epictetus, a philosopher and former slave, exiled from Rome in 89 by Vespasian's son Domitian. His pupil Arrian collected his lectures. Epictetus was lame, whence the adjective "halting."
- Sophocles, who was born at Colonus and lived a long life. One of his tragedies is entitled Oedipus at Colonus.