Thyrsis "Time, Not Corydon, Hath Conquered Thee"

Matthew Arnold

"Time, Not Corydon, Hath Conquered Thee"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The elegy "Thyrsis" was written to commemorate Arthur Hugh Clough, to whom the title of the poem applies and who had died in 1861. Arnold takes on another pastoral name for himself, Corydon, in keeping with the traditional form for classical elegies. One of the reasons that the two men were close was that both were poets, and, though the best of friends, enjoyed engaging in competition in their writing. Also each helped intensify the other's appreciation of the beauty of the countryside. In the poem Arnold feels acutely the absence of his "mate" in singing of sylvan beauty. And sadly, neither poet won the competitive prize because death rather than Corydon (Arnold) "conquer'd" Thyrsis (Clough). Gone forever, Thyrsis will never again be able to roam the beautiful countryside. The "he" of the first line refers to the cuckoo which, so Arnold thought, migrates in June.

He hearkens not! light comer, he is flown!
What matters it? next year he will return,
And we shall have him in the sweet springdays,
With whitening hedges, and uncrumpling fern,
And blue-bells trembling by the forest-ways,
And scent of hay new-mown.
But Thyrsis never more we swains shall see;
See him come back, and cut a smoother reed,
And blow a strain the world at last shall heed–
For Time, not Corydon, hath conquer'd thee!