Matthew Arnold was an English poet, cultural critic, and school inspector. He was the son of the celebrated Rugby School headmaster and literary professor, Thomas Arnold. He also had a brother, William Delafield Arnold, who was a novelist and colonial administrator. As a result, Arnold’s life was filled with many interesting stories.
The Strayed Reveller
Published in 1849, Arnold’s first volume of poems received little public attention. The book was soon taken off the market after selling only a few copies. Arnold cited the title poem as the reason for the withdrawal. It was not until 15 years later that the collection was republished.
Arnold was born in Laleham-on-Thames, Middlesex. He was the eldest son of Thomas Arnold, a former headmaster of the Rugby School. His godfather was John Keble. His father was appointed as the headmaster of Rugby School in 1828. His tutor was his uncle John Buckland. Wordsworth was a neighbor in 1834.
The Strayed Reveller by Matthew Arnold was Arnold’s first published book, but the book received little attention and was soon withdrawn. However, the book’s poems included “The Forsaken Merman” and “Tristram and Iseult.” The Strayed Reveller was followed by the 1852 collection of poems called Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems, which included “The Forsaken Merman.” Arnold’s 1858 tragedy, Merope, was notable for its unusual metres and plot twists.
Empedocles on Etna
Empedocles on Etna is a poem by Matthew Arnold, describing the events leading up to the philosopher’s suicide. It describes the ramifications of a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher’s unsatisfied need to climb Etna. In the poem, Empedocles makes an extended intellectual defense of his need, which he then rejects. In the process, he explores the rudiments of psychological projection.
In “From the Hymn of Empedocles,” the speaker acknowledges that people have a tendency to view small accomplishments as insignificant and thus fail to appreciate their success. He also acknowledges that his gesture toward mother earth affirms the needs and desires of the psyche-soma.
The poem also addresses the issue of religion. In other works, Arnold writes about God and heaven, but these subjects do not serve a literal function in this poem. Instead, they serve as symbols of nature and transcendence. In empedocles’s poem, however, he posits that life on Earth is more important than a fixed afterlife as Victorian Christians think of it. In other words, happiness on Earth is better than hope for happiness in heaven.
The Scholar Gypsy
Matthew Arnold’s “The Scholar-Gipsy” is a poem that is based on a real story that occurred in 17th-century Oxford. The story was collected in Joseph Glanvill’s 17th-century book The Vanity of Dogmatizing. The poem is a wonderful example of satire, but it also offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a young Oxford scholar.
The poem deals with the monotony of modern life and its effect on people. As such, it is a critique of contemporary life and the pressures it puts on men. Its gypsy-like character is a portrait of Arnold’s own self-identity and struggles with the pressures of modern life.
Throughout the poem, Arnold uses alliteration to highlight the contrast between the Gypsy and the reader. He begins the poem with a simile that compares the reader to the Gypsy and ends with a rhyming pattern that echoes Catullus’s rhyming patterns. The simile of the apple in the ‘Apple’ stanza is a delightfully elaborated simile.
Essays in Criticism
This reprint of Essays in Criticism by Matthew Arnold is essentially unchanged from the original 1865 edition. It covers the importance of critical thinking and its impact on the arts. It is an excellent introduction to the theory and practice of criticism, and a good starting point for those who are new to the subject.
In this essay, Arnold examines the touchstone poets of literature. He questions the moral value of poetry that lacks beauty and clarity. In his view, poetry should inspire, comfort, and uplift. This essay was originally published as the introduction to T. H. Ward’s anthology, The English Poets (1880), and later appeared in the second series of Essays in Criticism.
This book’s Preface demonstrates Arnold’s amiability and intelligence. He acknowledges that his leading Essays were the source of much violent contention when first published. Some critics considered them a French-style schooling of the English press. However, his introduction reveals his recognition of the “provincial” character of English critical practice. His introduction reconciles his smooth temper with his sharp wit.