Sohrab and Rustum

This is an artwork cover for Arnold's poem Soh...

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The great ending of Matthew Arnold’s epic Sohrab and Rustum, set on the borders of Iran.  On the banks of the Oxus, a father kills his son in a duel in front of their armies. This human tragedy dwindles as the narrator-poet widens the aperture, as it were, to emphasise the indifference of nature flowing on its way regardless.  From dreamy evocation of where the river will go, the tone changes and slows for the last five, almost incantatory lines.  As long as you remember to end it in a whisper, this is a great poem to read your ten-year old at bedtime.

But the majestic river floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hush’d Chorasmian waste,
Under the solitary moon;—he flow’d
Right for the polar star, past Orgunjè,
Brimming, and bright, and large; then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcell’d Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles—
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
A foil’d circuitous wanderer—till at last
The long’d-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.


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