A Mothers Love Never Dies: True Stories in Poetic Form with Spiritual Emphasis
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He shared the general enthusiasm of his friends for Carlyle's attacks on materialism and sham, and the exalting of great men and of character in Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History may have inspired his own Oxford prize poem on Cromwell His preferences included Emerson, with his themes of "Self-Reliance" and "Trust thyself! He had developed a strategy of detachment, as against Clough's commitment to the issues of the day; and the introspective analysis of his own nature and of his relations to men and ideas permeates the correspondence with Clough.
He wrote to Coleridge in protesting against the general impression "as to my want of interest in my friends which you say they have begun to attribute to me. It is an old subject" and "the accusation, as you say, is not true.
I laugh too much and they make one's laughter mean too much. However, the result is that when one wishes to be serious one cannot but fear a half suspicion on one's friends' parts that one is laughing, and, so, the difficulty gets worse and worse. Having heard from an oracle that he is to die in six years, although he has tried to atone for his father's selfish and unjust reign by a virtuous life and justice for his subjects, Mycerinus turns in scorn from his gods and his "sorrowing people" to spend the last years of his life in revelry. The possibility Arnold adds to that decision in lines may be self-revealing:.
Arnold's appointment as private secretary to the elderly Whig statesman Lord Lansdowne in , after a term as assistant master at Rugby School, gave him over the next four years a vantage point for observation of the "joyless feast" of nineteenth-century industrialism and class discontent and the revolutionary upheavals of throughout Europe. The striving to take "measure of his soul" is evident in poems and in the letters to Clough, as is the struggle to attain a state of peace and calm, a balance between withdrawal and commitment, a reconciliation of the claims of reason and the feelings and of the "two desires" which "toss about the poet's feverish blood.
Arnold's reaction to Clough's reforming zeal appears in his two sonnets "To a Republican Friend. Arnold was especially attracted to the tragic dramatist Sophocles, whose "even-balanced soul," in the famous line from Arnold's sonnet "To a Friend," made him preeminently the writer "who saw life steadily and saw it whole.
The passionate oxymoron in Romeo and Juliet
The powerful force of romantic love threatened to frustrate entirely the longing to take "measure of his soul" and so to be "calmed, ennobled, comforted, sustained. In a letter of 29 September he will "go to Thun" and "linger one day at the Hotel Bellevue for the sake of the blue eyes of one of its inmates. For a man who believed above all in self-control and integrity, the outcome of a conflict between the Platonic and the Byronic or between the shades of Dr.
Arnold and of George Sand could not be long in doubt. There is as much of relief as of desolation in the poem " Self-Dependence. The conventional courtship which followed, and which produced some charming lyrics, was prolonged until Arnold could obtain a position with an income that would support a wife. He achieved this when Lord Lansdowne had him appointed inspector of schools in April , and the marriage to Frances Lucy Wightman took place in June.
His reputation was established with his third volume, Poems: A New Edition , the first published under his name. It omitted "Empedocles on Etna" and the early poem "The New Sirens," but contained two new poems which have been widely known and liked ever since, " Sohrab and Rustum " and " The Scholar-Gipsy. During this period in which Arnold moved from a studied aloofness through turbulence to the desired calm, though with an awareness that " Calm's not life's crown, though calm is well " " Youth and Calm " , the letters gradually change in tone from the early touches of extravagance and badinage to exhortation and even reproach.
Clough, unable to settle down to any one job, including those found for him by Arnold, is finally told that he is "the most conscientious man I ever knew" but "on some lines morbidly so. Arnold helping to point the direction Matthew was to follow after Yet the early poem "The Voice," attributed by Allott to the impact of Newman's sermons, should be related to the late essay on Emerson in which Arnold recalls the effect of Newman's eloquence, those "words and thoughts which were a religious music--subtle, sweet, mournful.
Arnold's poetics, as revealed in the letters to Clough, show a gradual shift from a predominantly aesthetic to a predominantly moral emphasis. In criticizing Clough's poems he warns against a striving after "individuality" and, even more, against attempting to "solve the Universe. The italicized and capitalized earnestness hides a growing suspicion that for him a pure and autonomous aesthetic is not possible.
He offers as one reason for the contemporary failure to reach poetic heights the feeling of "how deeply unpoetical the age and all one's surroundings are," an age he elsewhere describes as arid, blank, and barren, with our "spread of luxury, our physical enervation, the absence of great natures , the unavoidable contact with millions of small ones. Arnold finally faces up to the fact that his classical ideal embraces much more than the aesthetic values he has been insisting on with Clough.
Modern poetry, to serve the age well, "can only subsist by its contents: by becoming a complete magister vitae as the poetry of the ancients did: by including, as theirs did, religion with poetry. It is a source of moral therapy for the age and a surrogate for the weakening Christian faith.
These views anticipate Arnold's lectures On Translating Homer , in which "nobility" is seen as a major characteristic of Homer, and "The Study of Poetry" , which proclaims that "the strongest part of our religion today is its unconscious poetry.
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It is at first simply "saying in the best way what you have to say ," though Arnold adds that "what you have to say depends on your age. The new emphasis appears when Arnold declares that "there are two offices of Poetry--one to add to one's store of thoughts and feelings--another to compose and elevate the mind by a sustained tone, numerous allusions, and a grand style.
For the style is the expression of the nobility of the poet's character, as the matter is the expression of the richness of his mind: but on men character produces as much effect as mind. Poetry must convey the emotional warmth and spiritual power that religion was losing in an era of sectarian strife on the one hand and agnostic indifference on the other. As it is, we are warm only when dealing with the last," and because warmth is a blessing and frigidity a curse, Arnold would have "most others" stay "on the old religious road.
What is pertinent here is the attempt to find in great poetry a supreme moral and spiritual influence as well as an ideal aesthetic form.
A Mother's Love Never Dies
In a letter written three months later, Arnold's rejection of Clough's praise for "The Scholar-Gipsy" is almost Carlylian in tone. Homer animates --Shakespeare animates --in its poor way I think Sohrab and Rustum animates --the Gipsy Scholar at best awakens a pleasing melancholy. I believe a feeling of this kind is the basis of my nature--and of my poetics. Clearly set forth in the preface, the preference is further refined in his first Oxford lecture when he says that "the great poets of the modern period of Greece are In a letter to his sister Jane he admitted that he had not succeeded, and could not succeed.
Merope might exhibit perfection of form, but "to attain or approach perfection in the region of thought and feeling, and to unite this with perfection of form, demands not merely effort and labour, but an actual tearing of oneself to pieces. How much this ideal embraced was later to be seen in his praise of the Sophoclean power of "imaginative reason" and in his lectures On the Study of Celtic Literature He credits the Celts not with "great poetical works" but with poetry having "an air of greatness," for in poetry "emotion counts for so much," but "reason, measure, sanity, also count for so much.
It is the alliance of these two that makes great poetry, the only poetry really worth very much. After asserting, and trying to illustrate by his own specimens, that English hexameters were best for translating Homer into English verse, he rejected the ballad as inadequate, saying of two lines from Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome that they were "hard to read without a cry of pain.
Such lines or passages one thinks again of the Note-Books Arnold found from his own experience were capable of setting up aesthetic, moral, and spiritual resonances which echo in the mind and soul, achieving through style and interpretative power something of the "grand" effects he found in epic and drama, and blending into his final definition of poetry as a "criticism of life" under the laws of "poetic truth" and "poetic beauty. For instance, there seems no good reason for a ballad type of stanza in the Obermann poems, or the Anglo-Saxon verse stresses in " Consolation ," or in most cases for the choice of the sonnet form.
Yet his patterns were original at times and could be appropriate to theme and mood, as is the adapted stanza from Keats's odes to the lonely musings and loving natural descriptions in "The Scholar-Gipsy" and "Thyrsis. Exclamation marks and italics and the intrusive "Ah" are sometimes stumbling blocks for readers. Against such evidence that Arnold had no ear for euphony, much less music, one can place " The Forsaken Merman " and "Dover Beach," lyrics like "Longing" and " Requiescat ," the ending of "Sohrab and Rustum," and the last section of "The Church of Brou.
Stanzas or verse paragraphs of varying length and of varying line length make him a forerunner of free verse practice, as in "A Summer Night" and "Dover Beach," in the romantically melancholy and melodiously rhymed "The Forsaken Merman," and in unrhymed poems such as "The Strayed Reveller" and " The Future. Eliot , as academic versifying. But perhaps the most Arnoldian verse form is that mixture of modes or genres which made it difficult for him to classify some of his own poems.
The lyrical drama "The Strayed Reveller," the dramatic narrative "The Sick King of Bokhara," the diversity of verse patterns in his major work "Empedocles on Etna" all suggest a creative and original element in Arnold's poetics as well as an urge to "animate" and "ennoble" mankind. Of "Empedocles on Etna" Swinburne said: "Nothing can be more deep and exquisite in poetical tact than this succession of harmonies, diverse without a discord. Modern poets, Arnold told Clough, "must begin with an Idea of the world in order not to be prevailed over by the world's multitudinousness: or if they cannot get that, at least with isolated ideas.
But experience resisted this rational commitment to "the high white star of truth" and compelled the honest poet to record his frustrations and mental sufferings. To achieve understanding by embracing or surrendering to experience was for Arnold a dangerous course, for it involved risking the sacrifice of the reason to the senses and feelings. Yet any answer arrived at without the sanction of emotion was, he said, arid and incomplete. This conflict runs through much of Arnold's poetry, with his deepest feelings attaching to the unresolved debate, to the anxious questions and the ambiguous or dusty answers.
Ideas in his case were to come from his own kind of immersion in experience, through professional work in education and the extension of criticism from literature to society and religion. The view of truth as multifaceted, the attempt at a synthesis in the phrase "the imaginative reason," the definition of religion as "morality, touched with emotion"--all these later formulations suggest acceptance and interpretation of experience as a better way than prior commitment to an Idea of coping with the world's multitudinousness.
A useful approach can be made to Arnold's poetry by recognizing three broad divisions. First, there is that large body of reflective or gnomic verse, where the poet's voice is freely heard but which shows varying degrees of detachment, in tones of questioning or stoicism or contemplation.
Second, there are the lyric poems of intense personal engagement in the human situation, especially the love poems with their burden of longing and suffering and the elegies with their milder melancholy. Third, there are the narrative and dramatic poems, which attempt to achieve objectivity and distance by form, character, and plot, and by the remoteness of myth and legend.
Qualities marking these categories respectively are notably present in "In Utrumque Paratus," in the lyric "Absence" from the Switzerland group, and in "The Strayed Reveller. What emerges is a twofold moral reflection on the unifying theme of man's lonely state.
According to the idealist hypothesis, compatible with religious belief, man can achieve self-transcendence and a return to the divine by virtue of the divine element in himself, but only if a "lonely pureness" enables him to remount "the coloured dream of life. The dominant emotion here is akin to that in the Marguerite poems. But there the echoing "alone" and "lonely" and "loneliness" are charged with the lyric cry of personal suffering; here, with the imagination employed in contemplative mood on the cosmic scale, the loneliness attaching to each philosophical alternative has a grave serenity.
Two of the more interesting themes considered in this exploratory and critical way are the relationship of man and nature and the conflicting claims of reason and feeling, the latter indeed omnipresent in Arnold's poetry. The first theme can best be examined with reference to several poems, the second within the limits of one poem, "The New Sirens," a poem which also makes a convenient transition to the second category. In an age of increasingly complex views of man's relationship with nature, with the extremes marked by Wordsworth's "Let Nature be your teacher" and Tennyson's "Nature red in tooth and claw," it is not surprising that Arnold should express himself in the noncommittal terms of "In Utrumque Paratus.
An angry outburst in one sonnet, "In Harmony with Nature," asserts that man can never be "fast friends" with a "cruel" Nature, but must "pass her" or else "rest her slave. In fact, another sonnet entitled "Quiet Work" apparently contradicts the first by beginning "One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee. In " Lines Written in Kensington Gardens " the poet, relaxing in the air of a "lone, open glade," begs an inner peace from the "Calm soul of all things. The emotions in these poems that find peace or inspiration in a spiritual union do not derive from a resolving of the moral and philosophical ambivalences about man's relationship with nature.
They come rather from one of Arnold's deepest sources of poetical feeling, his sheer pleasure in natural beauty, whether as bringing peace or joy, or as fit symbols for the imagination. In his letters he speaks of his "passion for clear water" and of the "positive pain" of dry water-courses in Italy sending his mind back to the clear rivers of Scotland, of a charm "so infinite to me. A letter to Clough describes these poems as having "weight" but "little or no charm," and wonders whether "I shall ever have heat and radiance enough to pierce the clouds that are massed around me.
The shift from poetry to prose, and from introspection to action of a suitable kind, was mainly a shift in emphasis. Yet reason and the moral will were never to have it all their own way. In the many-sided search for truth, the critic was never to lose entirely the poet's sense of the "daemonic" and the "inexplicable," the mystery of the buried life, or the darkness beyond the last lighted post.
little eyes, little ears: how violence against a mother shapes children as they grow
They are poems of the speaking voice, sharing thoughts with the reader as he walks or stands or sits with the speaker, and if not intense in expression, the best of them awaken a response to ideas that have evoked emotion as well as thought in the poet. It considers diverse patterns in the life of man, theorizes about the nature of the poet in relation to his fellows, and comments rather bleakly on man's environment.
Yet although Swinburne praised the poetic power of concrete imagery and modernized myth in "The New Sirens" and successfully urged its reprinting, Arnold's agreement with Clough that it was a "mumble" indicates his wish to be clearly understood in his line of thought. The poem presents opposing cases for judgment and comes reluctantly to a decision. It projects the dialogue in the mind, or externalizes it, without objectifying it in narrative or drama.
It is tempting to see Arnold here as a kind of Greek chorus commenting on the processional movement and contrasting attitudes which he has evoked, but the effect is rather that of the poet interpreting the scenes and figures in a tapestry, finding allegorical meaning for the life of man and, ironically, for the state of his own mind. Arnold rejects, in the preface, art which seeks to provide an "allegory of the state of one's own mind. The new Romantic sirens are not the cruel sirens of old, luring men to destruction, but they are as seductive. The poet's thoughts stray "to where at sunrise" he had seen the sirens playing, and "if the dawning into daylight never grew," the roses and lilies need never be exchanged for yew and cypress.
But the "cold nightair" and "north-wind blowing," bringing thoughts of "old age, youth's fatal morrow," cannot be countered by this "earthward-bound devotion. The romanticism of feeling in Arnold's poem takes the form of regret that what the new sirens have to offer is inadequate, a feeling hardly able to offset the insistent classical morality in the searching questions of the poem, but strong enough to keep him a practicing poet for a number of years.
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It appears in a letter of 25 January , a letter that is virtually a commentary on "The Forsaken Merman": "The aimless and unsettled, but also open and liberal state of our youth we must perhaps all leave and take refuge in our morality and character: but with most of us it is a melancholy passage from which we emerge shorn of so many beams that we are almost tempted to quarrel with the law of nature which imposes it on us. Not only did Marguerite give substance to the shadow, the experience of love brought into sharper focus and painful reality the balanced musings of the earlier poem.
To make of the love poems and the elegies a second major division among Arnold's poems is to see them, first, as dominated by the need for self-discovery and for wholeness of personality, and secondly, as poems in which the contrasting claims on man's nature of passion and reason, and of solitude and society, find their most intense and personal expression.
They are poems of confessional suffering and fractured sensibility, where the poet is too much involved in the emotional struggle to interpret experience in the light of philosophical alternatives or a dialectical process. They show the divided or alienated mind which so many, including Arnold himself, have seen as the marks of his early writing. If all love poems are egotistical in seeing the loved one as the fulfillment in reality of the lover's dreams, Arnold's Switzerland lyrics are supremely egotistical in seeing the loved one as a means to the end of self-fulfillment.
They are a study in attraction and repulsion, sometimes unfortunate in their effect as the poet blames God or Fate or Marguerite or himself for their inability to get together. In the lyric "Parting" the lover's gaze swings between the warm beauty of Marguerite coming in at the door and the snowy purity of the mountains seen through the window, until he flees with a cry of "our different past" from her arms to those of Mother Nature. The failure to achieve this transcendent union, to feel even the illusory happiness of men who have " dreamed two human hearts might blend in one," inspired the best and best-known of the Marguerite poems, with the true theme evident in the title "Isolation.
To Marguerite," and in the uncompromising and paradoxical line of the companion poem, "We mortal millions live alone " "To Marguerite--Continued". The struggle itself, however, is most clearly seen in "Absence," where the necessary choice between feeling and reason, and the pain of making it, elicit a cry of anguish:. Of the lyrics belonging to the Switzerland group, this is the strongest in its diction and feeling, though the "longing like despair" in the two poems "To Marguerite" and the climactic power of "the unplumbed, salt, estranging sea" make them the more melodious and memorable.
The repetition of "struggle," the bitterness that the "petty dust" of daily trivia and not "wiser thoughts" should blot out our feelings, the cold and painful choice, the longing for love free of those storms which are no help against the storms that whirl around modern man, all give an urgency and immediacy of impact. By comparison, the poem "Longing" from the "Faded Leaves" series tends to suggest the sighing lover and unkind mistress of the conventional sonnet cycle.
But then, this whole group of lyrics addressed to the future Mrs. Arnold has something of the conventional about it: Arnold brooding on the fated parting of lovers in "Too Late"; Arnold the forbidden suitor gazing sorrowfully at "My queen" from among the idlers on the pier in "Calais Sands"; Arnold trying manfully to say in "Separation" that if parting must come let it be clean and quick, but spoiling the effect by the anapestic jingling quatrain to which he was, unhappily, occasionally inclined. This is not to say that his love for Lucy was not genuine, or something caught on the rebound; it was rather that Arnold had revised his expectations.
The unusually loving and lingering description of Lucy's physical appearance and movements conveys a yearning and a need that find expression in the last three stanzas, with even a decorous Arnoldian variant on the old carpe diem theme. Most revealing of all, however, is "A Dream," which is not part of either series. As Arnold and his friend Martin sail "down a green Alpine stream" through scenes of rich natural beauty, Marguerite and her companion Olivia greet them from a balcony, with "white arms, waved eagerly," while "more than mortal impulse filled their eyes.
As the lovers hold hands and exchange bantering words, "a nameless sadness" overcomes the poet. At "rare" times "a beloved hand" and "the tones of a loved voice" will help us, through "another's eyes," to become aware of our "life's flow" and of its "winding murmur" in the meadows, bringing an air of coolness and "an unwonted calm.
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