Matthew Arnold Essay, Research Paper
One of the most noted English poets of the 19th Century (Victorian era) is Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). Arnold s style of writing consists of writing exactly how he feels, rather than writing about what the readers want to hear. Analyzing Arnold s works shows a sorrowful, serious, and desolate mood throughout his writings. Literary elements such as imagery, setting, irony, allusion, and repetition are used to create the lonesome and pessimistic moods of three of Arnold s poems: Requiescat (1853), Isolation: To Marguerite (1857), and Dover Beach (1867).
Arnold uses imagery to create the mood of one of his early poems, titled Requiescat. The poem is about the death of a woman who the poet admired and held strong feelings towards. The opening lines of Requiescat describe the woman with Strew on her roses, roses, and never a spray of yew! The image of roses is often associated with purity and affection. The emphasis of roses twice reveals to the reader that the narrator had a special relationship with the woman, possibly a lover. This creates a compassionate and loving mood for the woman. However, by having the roses scattered over her body evokes an image of confusion and anger over her death. The yew, an evergreen tree with dark leaves, creates an image of cruelty or darkness while the roses create an image of beauty and grace. The last few lines of the first stanza describe how the woman reposes into the casket and how the narrator would like to die as well, saying, would that I did too! This image evokes a sad and desolate mood. The narrator is alone and cannot bear living a life without her.
Arnold continues to create the mood of the poem by describing the dead woman in the second stanza. The narrator describes the woman as someone who bathed in the world with smiles of glee. The word bathed emphasizes the purity of the woman and how she lit up the world. However, her heart was tired, tired. This reveals to the reader that she worked to help others, but may have been taken advantage of or maybe taken for granted. The use of the word tired twice emphasizes the fragile heart of the woman. This creates a sad and sympathetic mood, for her death seems untimely.
Arnold emphasizes the pessimistic mood in the third stanza when he writes that the dead woman s life was turning, turning, in mazes. The adjective turning is not the literal meaning of spinning around and around, but rather to turn sour or rancid. This word implies that she was losing her grace and excellence when exposed to the harsh world, depicted as mazes. The word turning also creates an image of confusion, much like the word strew in the first stanza does. This creates a bitter mood where Arnold is criticizing society.
The concluding stanza of Requiescat describes the dead woman s spirit and evokes a bitter mood. Arnold believes that the woman s spirit was too great and too kind but it was forced to stay in her body, and ultimately, in this world. Images of her spirit and how it flutter d, may be compared to that of a butterfly. By describing her spirit like that of a butterfly, Arnold is saying that her body was her cocoon and once she passed on, she evolved into a butterfly who wanted to help others. However, she fail d for breath for her unselfishness and ultimately met her end in the vastly hall of death. From these images, one can conclude the final mood of the poem is bleak and lonesome. Society has taken away the one true thing in the narrator s life and now he is alone in the world that dealt his loved one her untimely death.
In Isolation: To Marguerite, Arnold tells of a couple separated from one another. However, the narrator is confident in their love, saying, I bade my heart more constant be. I bade it keep the world away. The repetition of I bade serves to emphasize the narrators determination to reunite with his love, Marguerite. The overall mood of the first stanza is optimistic and hopeful. This is emphasized when Arnold writes that the love grew like mine, each day, more tried, more true. The rhythm of this line is like a steady heartbeat using two words, followed by a pause with a comma. This emphasizes that the narrator as the utmost confidence in reuniting with his love and that his love for her is true.
The first stanza s mood is optimistic of love, but the opening line of the second stanza ironically depicts that love is bad. Arnold describes that The fault was grave! I might have known, What far too soon, alas! The drastic change in mood is emphasized with the use of exclamation marks depicting a pitiful and angry narrator. The mood has changed from optimistic (first stanza) to pessimistic (second stanza). The narrator has given up hope in his love for Marguerite. This is emphasized with the word grave which serves two meanings. The first meaning is that loving Marguerite was a serious mistake on the narrator s part. The other meaning is a grave found in a cemetery, which symbolically buries the narrator s hopes for attaining true love. The narrator realizes that faith may oft be unreturn d and that the emotions involving love is a back and forth process that he will no longer take part in. The narrator emphasizes this with repetition Farewell! Farewell! The narrator s use of the word farewell denotes that he may be hiding what he truly feels. Bidding farewell is a polite and nice way of saying goodbye, wishing the recipient of this a safe trip to their destination. If the narrator is truly bitter of love, then a more fitting phrase would be good riddance or be gone. This gives the reader a reason to think that the narrator is saying Farewell to love not wholeheartedly. This evokes a sad and tangled mood.
The third stanza continues where the second stanza ended with Farewell! and thou, thou lonely heart Back to solitude again! The stutter-like repetition of thou depicts a confused narrator. He seemingly wants to give off the appearance that he does not need love, but the tone of voice the narrator evokes proves otherwise. The narrator implies that he is a lonely man when he says, Back to solitude again! The absence of Marguerite has left the narrator alone once again.
The fourth and fifth stanzas continue with the narrator screaming Back! With the conscious thrill of shame The narrator is behaving irrationally by repeating Back! Furthermore, Arnold uses alliteration of Luna and Endymion. In Greek mythology, Luna is the Moon goddess that regulates the seasons and the months and Endymion was a handsome young man who was loved by Luna, whose youth was preserved by eternal sleep. Luna supposedly bore him fifty daughters by embracing him in his sleep. At night, Luna would rise from the ocean and ride through the sky with her chariot, drawn by white horses (or oxen). The narrator speaks of these Greek characters and tries to use them to relate to his own situation if love. The fifth stanza describes Luna as a chaste queen, yet she does not know how painful love can be when he says she never proved how vain a thing is mortal love. This allusion is placing Marguerite as Luna. The depiction of Luna wandering in Heaven, far removed can be described like Marguerite s absence from the narrator. From this, the narrator is saying Marguerite does not know the pain of love the way he does. This evokes a bitter mood because Marguerite does not know the pain she has afflicted on the heartbroken narrator. The closing line of the fifth stanza describes the narrator s feeling of love: Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone. This descending rhythm is like that of a dying creature. There are three words, comma, two words, comma, and one word comma, followed with the word alone. When referring back to the first stanza, the narrator speaks of his love for Marguerite with a upbeat and study heartbeat like rhythm. This revelation in the fifth stanza shows the transgression of the mood from optimistic to pessimistic.
Arnold opens up Dover Beach by using personification to depict the initial setting, showing the sea as calm and the moon lying fair. These human characteristics describe the setting as being tranquil and rather peaceful. Arnold writes the majority of the first stanza using the literary element of imagery. Apparently, the narrator is looking out at his surroundings and admiring nature. Other than the sea, there is complete silence, which conveys a serene and orderly mood. Furthermore, Arnold uses alliteration with such words depicting how the light he sees gleams, and the cliffs as glimmering. These words are different variations of one another, giving the sentence a repetitive effect. Gleams and glimmering are also words that often describe something that is new or pure, for example, a new chandelier. The words gleams and glimmering may suggest the narrators new relationship with his wife/companion. Later on in the first stanza, it is apparent that the narrator is not alone when he says, Listen! You hear that grating roar . The narrator then describes the pebbles hitting the surface and how they begin cease again begin. This depicts the slow and infinite deterioration of Dover Beach. The narrator s description of the pebbles using these repetitive sounds helps to undermine the otherwise peaceful scene and suggest to the speaker some unspecified, unrelenting sadness. The following line of the first stanza sets the mood for the rest of the poem saying how the constant battering from the pebbles creates an eternal note of sadness in. Here the peaceful setting begins to subside to a saddening and somber mood. In the beginning of the poem, the narrator describes the setting as peaceful. However, the narrator apparently diverges from peacefulness to sadness and relates it as bringing the sadness in, apparently kicking the illusion of happiness out. The narrator realizes that life is not what it is made out to be and subsides to reality.
The third stanza also uses the setting to create a depressing mood of Dover Beach. Whereas most of the first stanza speaks of the sea as a calm and peaceful setting, the third stanza describes the sound of the sea as a long, withdrawing roar .retreating, to the breath .and naked shingles of the world. This new, yet darker setting is emphasized with the word roar, suggesting an animalistic and dangerous world. The narrator s words are an oxymoron, describing the roar as melancholy. By saying that the roar is retreating to other beaches of the world, the narrator is implying that his sadness is not exclusively limited to Dover Beach. The mood in this stanza is both gloomy and hopeless. No matter where the narrator goes, he will never escape the infinite sadness he feels that night. The retreating of the Sea of Faith adds a lonely and somewhat frightening effect by leaving the narrator alone in the cliffs of Dover.
Towards the end of the poem, the narrator contrasts hate with the love he has found in his wife/companion. The repetition of the words so (appearing three times) and nor (appearing five times) gives the poem a contrasting effect. The narrator and his wife/companion seem optimistic of living a perfect life that is so carious, so beautiful, so new. However, the two face the harsh reality that this way of living is merely an illusion and that they merely have each other, nothing more. This is emphasized when the narrator says that life Hath .joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for the pain. The use of the word so referring to the optimistic point of view on life is used three times which helps emphasize the land of dreams. However, this optimism is drowned out with the constant repetition of the word nor, which appears five times. These pessimistic words overshadow the word so, giving the reader a final impression how harsh life really is. By writing a non-traditional poem, readers may interpret the poem as one that is somewhat chaotic and unorderly, much like the world the narrator describes on the Cliffs of Dover.