Matthew Arnold

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Matthew Arnold – 29 August 2008

One of the greatest English critics, Matthew Arnold believed that culture and beauty were necessary in religion, politics, and education, as well as in literature. He studied at Rugby and received his college degree at Oxford where he later was professor of poetry from 1857 to 1867. All of his poetry was written in his early years. In his later years he concentrated on elevating the art of literary and social criticism to a high level.

In the following poem, Matthew Arnold ponders the meaning of life and reminds me of a quotation attributed to Horace Walpole: “The world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.” In this poem, Matthew Arnold appears to belong to the latter group.

Dover Beach
Matthew Arnold
(1822–1888)

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

For a large collection of poems and stories, visit:
http://www.all-creatures.org/poetrydir.html 

For a large collection of quotations, visit:
http://www.all-creatures.org/quote.html
 


"Joyful Curmudgeon"
An oxymoron?
No! I see all the beauty of God's creation and I'm joyful.  At the same time, I see all the suffering and corruption going on in the world, and feel called to help expose and end it so that we may have true peace and compassion.

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