Matthew Arnold’s London

Victorian poet Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) was a friend of Wordsworth and decidedly cultured, there was plenty of social criticism in his work.

East London

‘Twas August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
In Spitalfields, look’d thrice dispirited.

I met a preacher there I knew, and said:
“Ill and o’erwork’d, how fare you in this scene?”–
“Bravely!” said he; “for I of late have been
Much cheer’d with thoughts of Christ, the living bread.”

O human soul! as long as thou canst so
Set up a mark of everlasting light,
Above the howling senses’ ebb and flow,

To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam–
Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night!
Thou mak’st the heaven thou hop’st indeed thy home.

West London

Crouch’d on the pavement, close by Belgrave Square,
A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied.
A babe was in her arms, and at her side
A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.

Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there,
Pass’d opposite; she touch’d her girl, who hied
Across, and begg’d, and came back satisfied.
The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.

Thought I: “Above her state this spirit towers;
She will not ask of aliens, but of friends,
Of sharers in a common human fate.

“She turns from that cold succour, which attends
The unknown little from the unknowing great,
And points us to a better time than ours.”

matthew-arnold

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