Monday, May 20, 2013


No Right to Bliss

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), "Empedocles on Etna," I.ii.127-166:
        And we feel, day and night,
        The burden of ourselves—
        Well, then, the wiser wight
        In his own bosom delves,    130
And asks what ails him so, and gets what cure he can.

        The sophist sneers: Fool, take
        Thy pleasure, right or wrong.
        The pious wail: Forsake
        A world these sophists throng.
Be neither saint nor sophist-led, but be a man!

        These hundred doctors try
        To preach thee to their school.
        We have the truth! they cry;
        And yet their oracle,    140
Trumpet it as they will, is but the same as thine.

        Once read thy own breast right,
        And thou hast done with fears;
        Man gets no other light,
        Search he a thousand years.
Sink in thyself! there ask what ails thee, at that shrine!

        What makes thee struggle and rave?
        Why are men ill at ease?—
        'Tis that the lot they have
        Fails their own will to please;    150
For man would make no murmuring, were his will obey'd.

        And why is it, that still
        Man with his lot thus fights?—
        'Tis that he makes this will
        The measure of his rights,
And believes Nature outraged if his will's gainsaid.

        Couldst thou, Pausanias, learn
        How deep a fault is this;
        Couldst thou but once discern
        Thou hast no right to bliss,    160
No title from the Gods to welfare and repose;

        Then thou wouldst look less mazed
        Whene'er of bliss debarr'd,
        Nor think the Gods were crazed
        When thy own lot went hard.
But we are all the same—the fools of our own woes!

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