Matthew Arnold


English Poet, Essayist and Cultural Critic

Author Quotes

Goethe in Weimar sleeps, and Greece, long since, saw Byron?s struggle cease.

Here is the element or power of conduct, of intellect and knowledge, of beauty, and of social life and manners, and all needful to build up a complete human life. - We have instincts responding to them all, and requiring them all, and we are perfectly civilized only when all these instincts of our nature - all these elements in our civilization have been adequately recognized and satisfied.

I must not say that she was true, yet let me say that she was fair; and they, that lovely face who view, they should not ask if truth be there.

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the proneness of the human mind to take miracles as evidence, and to seek for miracles as evidence.

Make us, not fly to dreams, but moderate desire.

Not deep the poet sees, but wide.

Only--but this is rare--when a beloved hand is laid in ours, when, jaded with the rush and glare of the interminable hours, our eyes can in another's eyes read clear, when our world-deafen'd ear is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--a bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast, and a lost pulse of feeling stirs again. The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain, and what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know. A man becomes aware of his life's flow, and hears its winding murmur; and he sees the meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

Poetry; a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty.

So, loath to suffer mute. We, peopling the void air, make Gods to whom to impute the ills we ought to bear.

The brave, impetuous heart yields everywhere to the subtle, contriving head.

The highest reach of science is, one may say, an inventive power, a faculty of divination, akin to the highest power exercised in poetry; therefore, a nation whose spirit is characterised by energy may well be eminent in science; and we have Newton. Shakspeare [sic] and Newton: in the intellectual sphere there can be no higher names. And what that energy, which is the life of genius, above everything demands and insists upon, is freedom; entire independence of all authority, prescription and routine, the fullest room to expand as it will.

The pursuit of the perfect, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light.

The word "God" is used in most cases as by no means a term of science or exact knowledge, but a term of poetry and eloquence, a term thrown out, so to speak, as a not fully grasped object of the speaker's consciousness -- a literary term, in short; and mankind mean different things by it as their consciousness differs.

Thou waitest for the spark from heaven! and we, light half-believers of our casual creeds, who never deeply felt, nor clearly will?d, whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds, whose vague resolves never have been fulfill?d; for whom each year we see breeds new beginnings, disappointments new; who hesitate and falter life away, and lose to-morrow the ground won to-day? Ah! do not we, wanderer! await it too?

And each day brings its pretty dust, our soon-choked souls to fill and we forget because we must, and not because we will.

Below the surface stream, shallow and light, of what we say and feel ? below the stream, as light, of what we think we feel, there flows with noiseless current, strong, obscure and deep, the central stream of what we feel indeed.

Choose equality.

Culture is the endeavor to know the best and to make this knowledge prevail for the good of all humankind.

For rigorous teachers seized my youth, and purged its faith, and trimm'd its fire, show'd me the high, white star of Truth, there bade me gaze, and there aspire. Even now their whispers pierce the gloom: what dost thou in this living tomb?

Gray, a born poet, fell upon an age of reason.

His expression may often be called bald . . . but it is bald as the bare mountain tops are bald, with a baldness full of grandeur.

I often, therefore, when I want to distinguish clearly the aristocratic class from the Philistines proper, or middle class, name the former, in my own mind, the Barbarians.

It is important, therefore, to hold fast to this: that poetry is at bottom a criticism of life; that the greatness of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life ? to the question, How to live. Morals are often treated in a narrow and false fashion, they are bound up with systems of thought and belief which have had their day, they are fallen into the hands of pedants and professional dealers, they grow tiresome to some of us. We find attraction, at times, even in a poetry of revolt against them; in a poetry which might take for its motto Omar Khayam's words: "Let us make up in the tavern for the time which we have wasted in the mosque." Or we find attractions in a poetry indifferent to them, in a poetry where the contents may be what they will, but where the form is studied and exquisite. We delude ourselves in either case; and the best cure for our delusion is to let our minds rest upon that great and inexhaustible word life, until we learn to enter into its meaning. A poetry of revolt against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of indifference towards moral ideas is a poetry of indifference towards life.

Man errs not that he deems His welfare his true aim, He errs because he dreams The world does but exist that welfare to bestow.

Not here, O Apollo! Are haunts meet for thee. But, where Helicon breaks down In cliff to the sea.

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English Poet, Essayist and Cultural Critic