The Study of Poetry


literary criticism is, like Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), the Victorian poet and critic points out, a “selfless to learn and propagate effort” the best that is known and thought in the world. And he strove hard to meet this goal in his critical writings. Giving primary importance to poetry in his essay “The study of poetry”, sees the poet as a seer. Without poetry, science is incomplete, and much of the religion and philosophy in the future would be replaced by poetry. Such, in their estimation, are the high destiny of poetry.

Arnold says that literature, and especially poetry, is “Criticism of life”. In poetry, this critique of life must comply with the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. Truth and the seriousness of the matter, happiness and perfection of diction and the form as outlined in the best poets, are what constitutes a critique of life.

poetry, says Arnold, interprets life in two ways: “poetry is interpretative for having natural magic in it and the moral depth”. And so the poet must aim high and excellent reliability in everything what is written. This demand has two essential qualities. The first is the choice of excellent performances. The poet must choose those that more powerfully the great primary human feelings that remain permanently in the race. The gist of the second is what Arnold calls the great style – the perfection of form, the choice of words, from his force directly pregnancy of matter that transports.

this, then, is conception of Arnold of the nature and mission of true poetry. And by its general principles – the “touchstone method” – introduced scientific objectivity to critical evaluation by providing comparison and analysis as the two main tools to judge individual poets. Thus, Shelley, Chaucer, Dryden and Pope fall short of the best, because they have “high seriousness”. Even Shakespeare thinks too much expression and very little of the conception. Ideal poets of Arnold are Homer and Sophocles in the ancient world, Dante and Milton and among modern, Goethe and Wordsworth. Arnold puts Wordsworth in the front row not by his poetry but for his “criticism of life”. It is curious that Byron is placed above Shelley. Inordinate love of Arnold of classicism made him blind to the beauty of poetry, and we cannot accept the vision of Arnold that the poetry of Shelley is less satisfactory than his writings in prose.

critique of Arnold’s life is often marred by his naive moralism, their inadequate perception of the relationship between art and morality and its uncritical admiration of what he regards as the sanity of gold of the ancient Greeks. For all his defense of disinterest, Arnold could not practice the disinterest in their essays. In his essay on Shelley in particular, displays a lamentable lack of disinterest. Shelley moral opinions were too much for the Victorian Arnold. In his essay on Keats also Arnold could not be disinterested. The sentimental letters of Keats to Fanny Brawne was too much for him. But the insistence of Arnold in the rules and their concern about the relationship between poetry and life made him one of the greatest modern critics.


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