Friday, July 31, 2009

Arnold as the poet of Victorian unrest

Arnold belonged and hence he is referred to as the poet of Victorian unrest. Victorian age was the period of material prosperity, the expansion of democracy and the growth of science which had hardly any appeal to him. He is certainly more violent than anybody else to the spiritual distress of his age and this is why he is called a poet Victorian unrest and spiritual distress which is clearly shown in his poetry.


In his famous poem 'Doves beach', he reacted more violently to the spiritual distress and meaningless of his age. He says religion and traditional values are east dying out. Materialism, scepticism and agnosticism are the order of the day. Men do not find comfort and happiness in Arid world .he says,

"Hath really neither joy nor love nor light

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;"


To him, contemporary life had on meaning or direction .life to him appears to be full of darkness and gloom and he feels like a benighted traveler in a foreign land without any light of hope.

"And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies slash by night."


It is the world of Science and people are sceptical. Their minds are disturbed by the new scientific thoughts. It is now leaving the world barren and dry with the declining of faith, men are getting more and more materialistic. He, therefore, could not help being a poet of skeptical reaction. Once the sea of religion was full but now Arnold has complained about the religious belief of Victorian age-

"The Sea of faith

War once, too at the full and round earth's shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd

But now I only hear

Its long, melancholy, withdrawing roar"


In the Victorian age, religious belief has disappeared; doubt and disbelief have combined to force back the wave of faith from the share of the world. And the world is now like a coast on which bole pebbles lie about in complete desolation.


In his another poem "The Scholar Gypsy" we also find the atmosphere of the Victorian unrest as well as spiritual distress. He says Victorian people only come and gone, and are completely lost in oblivion. They are materialistic and they have no fixed ideal to pursue.They are engaged in various experiments and have not the patience to stick to anything. They fail in their experiments and feel weak and miserable as a result of a series of shocks. They lose their vitality and elasticity of spirit

"'Tis that from change to change their beings roles;

'Tis that repeated shocks, again, again,

Exhaust the energy of strongest souls

And numb the elastic powers"(141-144)


The Victorians suffered from all lines of distraction, despair and frustration, and that is why they were always feeling different about the success of their quest.


The acute spiritual distress is found among the Victorians. The religious faith of the Victorians is casual. They have never thought about religion. He says about them

"and we,

Light half believers of our casual Creeds.

Who never deeply felt, oms clearly will'd"


The Victorian people's spiritual loss is evident in these lines

"... this stange disease of modern life,

With its pick hurry, its divided aims."


Victorians have no singleness purpose. They run after many hares and catch none. They caunch an experiment today, and abandon it tomorrow and they therefore, suffer from a series of shocks of disappointment. They advance one step to day and go two steps backward tomorrow:

... Each year we see

Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new;

Who hesitate and falter life away,

And kore to-morrow the ground won today.


Victorians do not know the meaning and purpose of life. They even can't face the baffling problems of life with stoical forbearance. They can never hope to attain the serenity and bliss.

The Victorian age suffered from a strange disease called modern life, which has brought in its wake sordid materialism and scepticism. They are madly pursuing wealth like the willo the wisp

...the strange disease of modern life,

With its pick hurry, its divided aims,

its heads overtax'd, its palsied hearts, was rife,


This disease of modern man is due to his preoccupation with his hectic world of business away from spiritual and moral pursuit, and so the poet advises the scholar Gipsy to keep away from such a restless and noisy world.


Like other poems, in "Thyrsis" he also weighs his age in the balance, and finds it wanting. Here Arnold laments for his friend who was the Victim of Victorian age. Under the bad effects of this age he was drawn into the vortex of a religious controversy. His simple faith was darkened by doubts and despair. He was sick of materialism and scepticism and left Oxford, and eventually left the world,

"Yet hadst thou always visions of our light,

And long with men of care thou couldst not stay,

And soon thy foot resumed 'tis wandering way

Left human haunt and on alone till night."


In this poem, the materialism of the Victorians is very well disparaged when the poet with subdued sarcasm says that materialism can never lead to truth and spiritualism.

"This doesn't come with houses or with gold,

With place, with honour. And a flattering crow;

'Tis not in the world's market bought and sold"


Arnold the poet, therefore, is a poet of "the hopeless tangle of the age." in his poetry as a whole, and sometimes in every line of his poems, Arnold proclaims himself a man who was dissatisfied with the Victorian age. R.H.Hutton, summing up Arnold's poetry says, "No one has expressed more powerfully and poetically its spiritual weakness, its craving for a passion that it can't feel, its admiration for a self mastery that it can't achieve, its desire for a creed that it fails to accept, its sympathy with a faith that it well not share, its aspiration for a peace it doesn't know."

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