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Featured Poem: Revolutions by Matthew Arnold

Written by Lizzie Cain, 10th March 2014

The Reader Organisation held one of our quarterly 'Think Days' a couple of weeks ago, in which every member of our (increasingly numerous!) staff get together to think about the future of the organisation and, of course, enjoy some shared reading. This time, we were all asked to bring poems on the theme of 'change', something we're experiencing a lot of at the moment.

One of the chosen poems was 'Revolutions' by Matthew Arnold, prompting the thought that although we may never know if what we're doing in life is 'right', if we don't at least try and create something with good intentions, then we'll never make any difference at all.


Before man parted for this earthly strand,
While yet upon the verge of heaven he stood,
God put a heap of letters in his hand,
And bade him make with them what word he could.

And man has turn’d them many times; made Greece,
Rome, England, France; yes, nor in vain essay’d
Way after way, changes that never cease!
The letters have combined, something was made.

But ah! An inextinguishable sense
Haunts him that he has not made what he should;
That he has still, though old, to recommence,
Since he has not yet found the word God would.

And empire after empire, at their height
Of sway, have felt this boding sense come on;
Have felt their huge frames not constructed right,
And droop’d, and slowly died upon their throne.

One day, thou say’st, there will at last appear
The word, the order, which God meant should be.
Ah! We shall know that well when it comes near;
The band will quit man’s heart, he will breathe free.

Matthew Arnold


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