Page images

It has so much heart in it that anyone possessed of a sympathetic and responsive nature must yield to it, and yet so much good sense and beneficent purpose in it that everyone interested in the general good must appreciate it. Herein also lie the cardinal features of the meditative lyric-a form of verse in which the heart and the head combine, whereby reflection is mediated to the reader through the agency of feeling, and feeling through the agency of reflection, and the unified result is made doubly rich and potent. One of her sonnets, "Work and Contemplation," would fitly indicate this union of thought and life:

The woman singeth at her spinning-wheel
A pleasant chant, ballad, or barcarolle;
She thinketh of her song, upon the whole,
Far more than of the flax; and yet the reel
Is full, and artfully her fingers feel

With quick adjustment, provident control,
The lines, too subtly twisted to unroll,
Out to a perfect thread; I hence appeal

To the dear Christian Church-that we may do
Our Father's business in these temples mirk,
Thus swift and steadfast; thus intent and strong
While thus, apart from toil, our souls pursue

Some high, calm, spheric tune, and prove our work
The better for the sweetness of our song.

[blocks in formation]
[graphic][merged small]



The Lyrics of Matthew Arnold

HE posthumous publication of Mr. Arnold's "Letters" has served but to deepen the interest already existing in all that he was as a man and did as an author. Revealing, as they do, his most intense personality, his domestic as well as his literary and professional life, they seem to throw light upon what constituted his governing motives, ambitions, and aims, and thus to correct some erroneous impressions hitherto held regarding him.

One of the most important of these pertained to what was supposed to be his unsympathetic nature, and the absence from his individuality of the softer and gentler traits of character. Those who thought they knew him well, in so far as he revealed himself in his writings, are more than surprised to find him, in the immediate circle of his home life and near relationships, a genial, tender, and confidential friend, true to all parental and family obligations, and signally free from haughty isolation and studied reserve of manner. And here, it is in point to say, we may discover the lyric, or emotional, side of Mr. Arnold's life and poetic work, coexisting, as it did, with epic and dramatic instincts, and with a most pronounced ability in the line of literary criticism; while one has but to read a short distance into the volume of his poetry to see

the dominant presence of that meditative element which we are specially discussing, the peculiar type and expression of this reflective feature being so unique as not only to distinguish him from such lyrists as Keats and Wordsworth, but also from such as Byron and Shelley and Clough.

The classification of his poems, given in the edition of 1895, is as follows:

Early poems, including sonnets and other selections.

[ocr errors]

Narrative poems, such as Balder Dead."

Sonnets proper, such as "A Picture at Newstead."
Lyric poems, such as "Meeting and Parting."
Elegies, such as "Thyrsis."

Dramatic poems, as "Merope: A Tragedy."
Later poems, as "Kaiser Dead."

The classification, in its seven sections, is clearly reducible, it will be noticed, to the three generally accepted divisions of verse-epic, dramatic, and lyric-while it is to be emphasized that the lyric poems, in one form or another, sonnet, elegy, or lyric proper, constitute at least one half of the entire product of his verse. What we called his early poems and later poems are almost exclusively lyric, while the strictly lyrical element in his narrative and dramatic poems is so large as to naturally modify their structure and final effect. Thus it appears, strange as it may seem, that Matthew Arnold as a poet was primarily a lyric poet of the contemplative type, the expressive lineaments of his face being in

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »