Laocoon

(MATTHEW ARNOLD)







Under the shadow of Death,
Under the stroke of the sword,
Gain we our daily bread.
Exile that hath no end,
And the heaping up of our woes,
Are given into our hand
As the gifts of the Gods to men.

Lo! in a leaguered town,
Compassed by many foes,
Weary citizens wait,
Neither joyed nor afraid,
The unseen doom of the shot—
Only, at times, when a friend
Falls from their side and is lost
Out of his place on the wall,
Lift they their hands aloft,
Crying aloud to the Gods,
The pitiless, far-off Gods:
'Spare us this last for a space—
Not for ourselves, indeed,
Seeing that this is our right,
But for our children and wives!'

So, under Indian skies,
Compassed by many ills,
Weary workers abide,
Neither joyed nor afraid,
Waiting the unseen doom.
Only, at times, when a friend
Falls at their side and is lost
Out of his place in their life,
Lift they their hearts aloft,
Crying aloud: 'If a God
Govern the ways of men,
Spare us this last for a space—
Not for ourselves, indeed,
Seeing that this is our right,
But for our children and wives!'

Neither joyed nor afraid
Of the snakes of circumstance,—
The marble snakes of mishap
That girdle our fleshly limbs,—
We of the East abide:
But if at times our souls,
Being broken by ills,
Blench and are sorely disturbed,—
Not for ourselves, indeed
(Seeing that this is our right),
But for our children and wives,—
Shall we be judged as afraid
By our complaining, 0 God?