Matthew Arnold

Cover of book Matthew Arnold
Categories: Fiction » Drama

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D AND WORDSWORTH AS RELIGIOUS TEACHERS It is impossible to understand or appreciate Arnold fully unless we are acquainted with the best work of his predecessor and master, William Wordsworth. One of the most profoundly significant events in the life of the great poet was when he received the doctor's degree at the Oxford Commemoration of 1839, amid unusual plaudits. For, a quarter of a century before, Wordsworth had been scorned as a poetaster and literary crank. To none must the appreciation have come with greater delight than to the Arnolds, father and son, who were sworn ad- mirers of the jncidern prophet of natural religion. It was an act of national approval and confidence. So much of the best in the religious life of paganism did Arnold find in Wordsworth that this particular aspect of Wordsworthianism bulks too largely in his estimate of the poet's teaching. In his essay on Marcus Aurelius, a man whose pure and noble character seemed to him?as it has done to others, John Wesley among the number? to reach a very pinnacle of greatness, he finds inthe emperor's outlook on life much to remind him of Wordsworth's teachings. Remarking on the admixture of sweetness with dignity which makes the Roman so beautiful a moralist, Arnold declares that it enables him to carry even into his observation of nature a delicate penetration, a sympathetic tenderness, worthy of Wordsworth. The spirit of such a remark as the following has hardly a parallel, he thinks, in the whole range of Greek and Roman literature: Figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe olives the very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds a peculiar beauty to the fruit. And the ears of corn bending down, and the lion's eyebrows and the foam which flows from the mo...

Matthew Arnold
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