I’d been fascinated by Matthew Arnold and British poetry since my first semester of college. I used say that I fell in love with this poem when I found out that this inspired a group of gentlemen to live as if tomorrow didn’t exist. Truthfully, it took me until now, six years after first reading it, to truly understand the significance of a buried life. I now understand living one life and wishing for another, repressing an unexpressed self while encouraging others to break free and flourish. At 24, ’tis true, it is a buried life I lead.
But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us—to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves—
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress’d.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well—but ‘t is not true!
The battle of the unexpressed self.