Published in 1880 as the General Introduction to The English Poets, edited by T. Let us try, then, the Chanson de Roland at its best. The two superiorities are closely related, and are in steadfast proportion one to the other. Of course we are not to require this other poetry to resemble them; it may be very dissimilar. It is a kind of manifesto of his critical creed. Chaucer is the father of our splendid English poetry; he is our well of English undefiled, because by the lovely charm of his diction, the lovely charm of his movement, he makes an epoch and founds a tradition.
Arnold also dispenses sound advice on how best to appreciate poetry. Gray is our poetical classic of that literature and age; the position of Gray is singular, and demands a word of notice here. Matthew Arnold 1822-1888 was an English poet, and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. Science, I say, will appear incomplete without it. He says Dryden's post-script to the readers in his translation of The Aeneid reveals the fact that in prose writing he is even better than Milton and Chapman. And yet in the very nature and conduct of such a collection there is inevitably something which tends to obscure in us the consciousness of what our benefit should be, and to distract us from the pursuit of it. Most of his contemporaries based their style of writing on innovations introduced by Dryden in poetry, drama, and literary criticism.
It is present in our minds and governs our estimate of what we read. He is a genuine source of joy and strength, which is flowing still for us and will flow always. It had become all the more important in his own age when materialism had dominated the life of the people, and when religious values were crushed due to the development of science. Do you ask me whether Drydens verse, take it almost where you will, is not good? More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us. Even a single line or selected quotation will serve the purpose. Bounded as is my space, I must yet find room for an example of Chaucers virtue, as I have given examples to show the virtue of the great classics. I answer: Admirable for the purposes of the inaugurator of an age of prose and reason.
Excellence of poetry lies both in its matter or substance and in its manner of style. Very effectively explained with beautiful examples. Arnold's discussion of Burns in The Study of Poetry may be seen as a part of an argument connected with a larger question that had concerned Arnold in all of his criticism: the kind of poetry that was necessary for a democratic age. Themes were supplied from all quarters; but the romance-setting which was common to them all, and which gained the ear of Europe, was French. Of the two divisions of that poetry, its productions in the langue doil and its productions in the langue doc, the poetry of the langue doc, of southern France, of the troubadours, is of importance because of its effect on Italian literature;the first literature of modern Europe to strike the true and grand note, and to bring forth, as in Dante and Petrarch it brought forth, classics. And the compensation for admiring such passages less, from missing the perfect poetic accent in them, will be that we shall admire more the poetry where that accent is found.
A number of influences operated upon Arnold from the earliest days and determined his views and attitudes. He is scantiest and frailest of classics in our poetry but he is a classic. We must accustom ourselves to a high standard and to a strict judgment. There is an excellence of style and subject in his poetry. He argued that culture should be 'a study of perfection' of the human condition. This estimate is called the real estimate of poetry. But if we conceive thus highly of the destinies of poetry, we must also set our standard for poetry high, since poetry, to be capable of fulfilling such high destinies, must be poetry of a high order of excellence.
Arnold is against direct moral teaching; he regards didactic poetry as the lowest kind of poetry. Short passages, even single lines, will serve our turn quite sufficiently. The accent of high seriousness, born of absolute sincerity, is what gives to such verse as In la sua volontade e nostra pace to such criticism of life as Dantes, its power. He is the scantiest and frailest of classics in our poetry, but he is a classic. There are also many wonderful bits about educating the poetic taste of young students. Smoothness need not be the only one; harshness and ruggedness are equally great qualities, when used to create special effects. In the present work it is the course of one great contributory stream to the world-river of poetry that we are invited to follow.
It is of paramount importance because of the high destinies of poetry. We all of us have a leaning towards the pathetic, and may be inclined perhaps to prize Burns most for his touches of piercing, sometimes almost intolerable, pathos; for verse like We twa hae paidlt i the burn From mornin sun till dine; But seas between us braid hae roard Sin auld lang syne where he is as lovely as he is sound. He has not the volume or the power of poets who, coming in times more favourable, have attained to an independent criticism of life. Dryden and Pope are the famous poets of this age. . But if we have any tact we shall find them, when we have lodged them well in our minds, infallible touchstone for detecting the presence or absence of high poetic quality, and also the degree oft his quality, in all other poetry which we may place beside them.
And the criticism of life will be of power in proportion as the poetry conveying it is excellent rather than inferior, sound rather than unsound or half - sound, true rather than untrue on half - true. Vitet gives to the Chanson de Roland. But do you ask me whether such verse proceeds from men with an adequate poetic criticism of life, from men whose criticism of life has a high seriousness, or even, without that high seriousness, has poetic largeness, freedom, insight, benignity? The theory of poetry given Arnold has been challenged on many accounts. Poetic truth and poetic beauty are inter-related and cannot be separated from one another. It is the power to look beyond boredom, horror and glory. Science, I say, will appear incomplete without it. Arnold also believed that criticism should operate using regular standards of taste and excellence.
Arnold's evaluations of the Romantic poets such as Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and Keats are landmarks in descriptive criticism, and as a poet-critic he occupies an eminent position in the rich galaxy of poet-critics of English literature. The historic estimate is likely in especial to affect our judgment and our language when we are dealing with ancient poets; the personal estimate when we are dealing with poets our contemporaries, or at any rate modern. Arnold himself insisted that we must judge a poem by the 'total impression' and not by its fragments. The dissatisfaction is natural; yet a lively and accomplished critic, M. The elaborate philological groundwork which we require them to lay is in theory an admirable preparation for appreciating the Greek and Latin authors worthily. He has not their accent. We are here invited to trace the stream of English poetry.