Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Matthew Arnold: Growing Old

What is it to grow old?

Is it to lose the glory of the form,

The lustre of the eye?

Is it for beauty to forgo her wreath?

—Yes, but not this alone.

Is it to feel our strength—

Not our bloom only, but our strength—decay?

Is it to feel each limb

Grow stiffer, every function less exact,

Each nerve more loosely strung?

Yes, this, and more; but not

Ah, ’tis not what in youth we dreamed ’twould be!

’Tis not to have our life

Mellowed and softened as with sunset glow,

A golden day’s decline.

’Tis not to see the world

As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,

And heart profoundly stirred;

And weep, and feel the fullness of the past,

The years that are no more.

It is to spend long days

And not once feel that we were ever young;

It is to add, immured

In the hot prison of the present, month

To month with weary pain.

It is to suffer this,

And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel.

Deep in our hidden heart

Festers the dull remembrance of a change,

But no emotion—none.

It is—last stage of all—

When we are frozen up within, and quite

The phantom of ourselves,

To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost

Which blamed the living man.


Public Domain. Written circa 1864.

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Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888)

One comment on “Matthew Arnold: Growing Old

  1. Patricia A. Nugent
    January 12, 2019

    Oh, man. I’m sure feeling “each limb grow stiffer.” And he was only 42 years old when he wrote this and 66 when he died!!

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2019 by in Health and Nutrition, Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , .

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