Yes! in the sea of life
With echoing strait
s between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless
We mortal millions live alone
The islands feel the enclasping flow,
And then their endless bounds they know.
But when the moon their hollows lights,
And they are swept by balms of spring,
And in their glens, on starry nights,
The nightingales divinely sing;
And lovely notes, from shore to shore,
Across the sounds and channels pour -
Oh! then a longing like despair
Is to their farthest caverns sent;
For surely once, they feel, we were
Parts of a single continent!
Now round us spreads the watery plain -
Oh might our marges meet again!
Who order'd, that their longing's fire
Should be, as soon as kindled, cool'd?
Who renters vain their deep desire? -
A God, a God their severance ruled!
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb'd, salt, estranging sea.
- Matthew Arnold, 1852.
First published in Empedocles on Etna under the title To Marguerite, in Returning a Volume of the Letters of Ortis.