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Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832–1890$
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Paul Turner

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122395

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122395.001.0001

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Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

Chapter:
(p.75) 5. Matthew Arnold
Source:
Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832–1890
Author(s):

Paul Turner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122395.003.0005

Matthew Arnold liked looking down at things from a height. While at Rugby, he wrote a Latin poem about climbing in search of knowledge. The Strayed Reveller presents two panoramic views of human life, one seen from Mount Olympus by the gods, and one more painfully imagined by poets. In ‘Resignation’ the poet is a detached observer, who ‘looks down’ on a ‘populous town’ from ‘some high station’. Empedocles contemplates human life from the top of Mount Etna, the ‘Author of Obermann’, from high up in the Alps. In his prose, too, Arnold tends to adopt some form of elevation from which to survey his subject, as if on John Henry Newman’s principle that ‘we must ascend; we cannot gain real knowledge on a level’. He judges contemporary poetry from the standpoint of those ‘highest models of expression’, classical authors.

Keywords:   Matthew Arnold, classical authors, Resignation, Author of Obermann, Empedocles, elevation, John Henry Newman

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