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Arnold as a Poet of Victorian Conflict.

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Arnold as a Poet of Victorian Conflict Lord Alfred Tennyson, a consummate poetic artist, is regarded as the most representative poet of the Victorian age. That his poetry was an epitome of his time, that it exhibited the society, the art, the philosophy, the religion of his day, was proved by the welcome which all classes gave it. Though not a representative poet of the age, in the sense Tennyson was, Matthew Arnold, having an acute sense of his age, represented perhaps more truly than Tennyson, the contending, contemporary intellectual and religious ideas, the illogical contradictions in men's minds, the sick hurry and the divided aims, the shattered hopes and the spiritual distress of his age. Arnold's verse is a more truthful mirror of his mind and character than his prose. As Arnold himself writes in a letter to his mother in 1869-"My poems represent, on the whole, the main movement of the last quarter of a century." Examined as a reflection of Arnold's mind and character and taken as a whole, the poems appear a sandheap of shifting judgements, of trembling opinions, of crumbling creeds. They strike the ear like a medley of conflicting cries which cannot be reduced from dissonance to harmony. ...read more.


faith found abode in men's hearts, which Arnold records in "Dover Beach"--- "The sea of faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar Retreating, to the breath." Arnold's poetry represented its age in a far profounder way. Here is the true voice of the sensitive Victorian intellectual brooding over inevitable loss of faith and the meaning of life. He gave moving expression to a modern malaise that is still very much with us, a sense of the isolation of the individual, of "Wandering between two worlds, one dead/The other powerless to be born" (Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse), of the fears, hopes and despairs of the thoughtful and sensitive man in a world of rapid change and increasing standardization. One of Arnold's best known poems, 'The Scholar Gipsy', ostensibly about s seventeenth century Oxford student who disappeared among the gypsies, is really about the poet himself, and his generation; the scholar gipsy becomes a symbol in the light of which Arnold can develop his own position and state his own problems. The theme of 'The Scholar Gipsy' is really Arnold himself, his doubts and problems, and introspective melancholy developed indirectly in an elegiac context and in association with aspects of the English landscape, which are most appropriate to the contemplative mood. ...read more.


These are the feelings to which Arnold gave expression in his early poetry. The almost unvarying theme of his lyric verse is the divorce of the soul from the intellect and the perplexity which the separation produces. Arnold could not share with Tennyson his genial faith or the robust and buoyant optimism of Browning; the conflict between science and religion, between matter and spirit arrested his attention. Perhaps more them any other man of his time and nation, he perceived the changes that were taking place in the conditions of life and the minds of men to bring into being the world we now know in certain respects he was, of all the intellectual figures of his period, the most modern. Both in his early poems, which make up the larger body of his cannon and in the infrequent later poems, some of which are among his best, Arnold showed an awareness of the emotional conditions of modern life which far exceeds that of any other poet of his time. Arnold as a poet-speaks with the voice of one who has been disturbed by Victorian conflicts, doubts and problems, rendered permanently melancholy by a sense of tears at the heart of things, illuminated a vision of ancient Athens and cheered and comforted by Wordsworthian vision of the relation between Man and Nature. Arnold as a Poet of Victorian Conflict - 1 - ...read more.

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