Life Style

Mathew Arnold and some of his poetic masterpieces

Mathew Arnold, a great name of Victorian poetry, was solely connected to education from the very beginning of his career.

He was a school inspector for some thirty years and became a campaigner of educational reform. Like T.S. Eliot, he also deals with the nihilism and disillusionment of modern life which is full of the thirst for more materialistic pleasure and lacks the basic love and care for each other. Through his poetry, he pleaded to humanity to be more human and compassionate towards each other. It is to be remembered that, for his poem ‘Cromwell’ he won the Newdigate Prize.In his renowned writing, called ‘Culture and Anarchy’ he distributed the society into three classes- the Barbarians (Aristocrats), the Philistines (Middle Class) and Populace (Working Class). There are so many other works for which he achieved a permanent place in the literature. In this article we’ll discuss some of his famous poems. So, let’s look into them in detail –

Dover Beach, the lamentation of the loss of faith

In this poem, the loss of faith in the world of cruelty and violence is described by Mathew Arnold. In the era of excessive rationalism and scientific vigor, Victorian people were losing their moral sense, which was the matter of concern for Arnold. In the beginning of the poem, the poet stood in front of an isolated beach which described love, faith and desolation. The poet believes that this note of sadness is heard by many people including Sophocles. He used the metaphor of sea and waves to show the fading spiritual sense of human being in the era of science and reason. It ends with a vision of meaninglessness in which meaningless wars are happening for meaningless reasons.

“and we are here as on a darkling plain… where ignorant armies clash by night.”

The Scholar Gypsy, a critique of busy Victorian life (1853)

At that time the belief system of Victorian people was shaken by the revolutionary invention of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. They thought of industries and overall development of life but at the same time it sucked their inner happiness. This poem is trying to portray the same picture. It narrates the story of a university drop out who later joined a band of gypsies. Written in a pastoral form, it invokes a shepherd and describes the beauty of rural landscapes. Here the gypsies are representing a traditional life which is unlike the life of Victorian people.

Lastly, we want to end the discussion with some of his precious words,

“Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.”


Sohini is a journalism and mass communication enthusiast from Kolkata with an extreme interest in creative writing. Focused on entertainment, health and lifestyle, her stories could make your net surfing much more interesting.
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