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Matthew Arnold's Sohrab and Rustum and Other Poems by Matthew Arnold

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escape on Ruksh, and returned to Seistan, leaving Persia to her fate.
The king's wrath, however, soon gave place to fear; and recognizing
the danger of his throne unsupported by Rustum's valor, he despatched
messengers to him with humble petitions and apologies. After much
protesting, Rustum finally yielded and accompanied the Persian army,
under the king Kai Kaoos, which at once set forth to encounter Sohrab.

The morning before the opening of hostilities, Sohrab, taking the
Persian Hujir, whom he still held a prisoner, to the top of a rocky
eminence, ordered him to point out the tents of the chief warriors
of the Persian army, particularly Rustum's. But Hujir, fearing lest
Sohrab should attack Rustum unexpectedly and so overcome him, declared
that the great chieftain's tent was not among those on the plain
below. Disappointed at his failure to find his father, Sohrab led his
army in a fierce onslaught on the Persians, driving them in confusion
before him. In this dire extremity Kai Kaoos sent for Rustum, who was
somewhat apart from the main troop. Exclaiming that the king never
sent for him except when he had got himself into trouble, the warrior
armed, mounted Ruksh, and rushed to the combat. By mutual consent the
two champions withdrew to a retired spot, where, unmolested, they
might fight out their quarrel hand to hand. As they approached each
other, Rustum, moved with compassion by the youth of his foe, tried
to dissuade Sohrab from his purpose, and counselled him to retire.
Sohrab, filled with sudden hope,--an instinctive feeling that the
father whom he was seeking stood before him,--eagerly demanded whether
this were Rustum. But Rustum, fearing treachery, said he was only an
ordinary man, having neither palace nor princely kingdom--not Rustum.

They marked off the lists, and, mounted on their powerful horses,
fought first with javelins, then with swords, clubs, and bows and
arrows. After several hours of fighting both were exhausted, and by
tacit consent they retired to opposite sides of the lists for rest.
When the combat was renewed, Sohrab gained a slight advantage. A truce
was then made for the night, and the warriors returned to their tents
to prepare for the morrow.

With daybreak the struggle was renewed. To prevent the armies from
intervening or engaging in battle, they were removed to a distance of
several miles. Midway between, Sohrab and Rustum met in the midst of a
lonely, treeless waste. More convinced than before that his adversary
was Rustum, Sohrab sought to bring about a reconciliation, but Rustum
refused. This time they fought on foot. From morning till afternoon
they fought, neither gaining any decided advantage. At last Sohrab
succeeded in felling Rustum to the earth, and was about to slay him,
when the Persian called out that it was not the custom in chivalrous
warfare to slay a champion until he was thrown the second time.
Sohrab, generous as brave, released his prostrate foe; and again
father and son parted. [154]

Rustum, scarcely believing himself alive after such an escape,
purified himself with water, and prayed that his wounds might be
healed and his accustomed strength restored to him. Never before had
he been so beset in battle.

With morning came the renewal of the combat, both champions
determining to end it that day. Late in the evening Rustum, by a
supreme effort, seized Sohrab around the waist and hurled him to the
ground. Then, fearing lest the youth prove too strong for him in the
end, he drew his blade and plunged it into Sohrab's bosom.

Sohrab forgave Rustum, but warned him to beware the vengeance of his
father, the mighty Rustum, who must soon learn that he had slain his
son Sohrab. "I went out to seek my father," cried the dying youth,
"for my mother had told me by what tokens I should know him, and I
perish for longing after him.... Yet I say unto thee, if thou shouldst
become a fish that swimmeth in the depths of the ocean, if thou
shouldst change into a star that is concealed in the farthest heaven,
my father would draw thee forth from thy hiding-place, and avenge my
death upon thee, when he shall learn that the earth is become my bed.
For my father is Rustum the Pehliva, and it shall be told unto him,
how that Sohrab his son perished in the quest after his face." These
words were as death to the aged hero, who fell senseless at the side
of his wounded son. When he had recovered he called in despair for
proofs of what Sohrab had said. The now dying youth tore open his mail
and showed his father the onyx which his mother had bound on his arm
as directed. [155]

The sight of his own signet rendered Rustum quite frantic; he cursed
himself, and would have put an end to his existence but for the
efforts of his expiring son. After Sohrab's death he burnt his tents
and carried the corpse to his father's home in Seistan, and buried
it there. The Tartar army, agreeable to Sohrab's last request, was
permitted to return home unmolested. When the tidings of Sohrab's
death reached his mother, she was inconsolable, and died in less than
a year.

In the main the story as told by Arnold follows the original
narrative. A careful investigation of the alterations made, and the
effect thus produced, will lend added interest to the study of the
poem and give ample theme for composition work.

=1. And the first grey of morning fill'd the east.= Note the abrupt
opening. What is gained by its use? At what point in the story as told
in the introductory note does the poem take up the narrative? Be sure
to get a clear mental picture of the initiative scene. _And_ is here
used in a manner common in the Scriptures. Cf. "And the Lord spake
unto Moses," etc.

=2. Oxus.= The chief river of Central Asia, which separated Turan from
Iran or the Persian Empire, called Oxus by the Greeks and Romans, and
the Jihun or Amu by the Arabs and Persians. It takes its source in
Lake Sir-i-Kol, in the Pamir table-land, at a height of 15,600 feet,
flows northwest, and empties into the Aral Sea on the south. Its
length is about 1300 miles.

"The introduction of the tranquil pictures of the Oxus, both at the
beginning and close of the poem (ll. 875-892), flowing steadily on,
unmoved by the tragedy which has been enacted on her shore, forms one
of the most artistic features in the setting of the poem."

=3. Tartar camp.= The Tartars were nomadic tribes of Central Asia and
southern Russia. The so-called Black Tartars, identified with the
Scythians of the Greek historians, inhabited the basin of the Aral and
Caspian Seas, and are the tribe referred to in the poem. They are a
fierce, warlike people; hence our expression, "caught a Tartar."
=11. Peran-Wisa.= A celebrated Turanian chief, here in command of
Afrasiab's army, which was composed of representatives of many Tartar
tribes, as indicated in ll. 119-134.

=15. Pamere=, or Pamir. An extensive plateau region of Central Asia,
called by the natives the "roof of the world." Among the rivers having
their source in this plateau are the Oxus, l. 2, and the Jaxartes, l.

=38. Afrasiab.= The king of the Tartars, and one of the principal
heroes of the _Shah Nameh_, the Persian "Book of Kings." He is reputed
to have been strong as a lion and to have had few equals as a warrior.

=40. Samarcand.= A city in the district of Serafshan, Turkestan, to
the east of Bokhara; now a considerable commercial and manufacturing
centre, and a centre of Mohammedan learning.

=42. Ader-baijan.= The northwest province of Persia, on the Turanian

=45. At my boy's years.= See introductory note to poem.

=60. common fight.= In the sense of a general engagement. Be sure to
catch the reason why Sohrab makes his request.

=61. sunk.= That is, lost sight of.

=67. common chance.= See note, l. 60. Which would be the more
dangerous, a "single" or "common" combat? Why?

=70. To find a father thou hast never seen.= See introductory note to

=82. Seistan.= A province of southwest Afghanistan bordering on the
Persian province of Yezd. It is intersected by the Helmund River (l.
751), which flows into the Hamoon Lake, now scarcely more than a
morass. On an island in this lake are ruins of fortifications called
Fort Rustum. This territory was long held by Rustum's family,
feudatory to the Persian kings. =Zal.= Rustum's father, ruler of
Seistan. See note, l. 232. [157]

=83-85. Whether that ... or in some quarrel=, etc. Either because his
mighty strength ... or because of some quarrel, etc.

=85. Persian King.= That is, Kai Kaoos (or Kai Khosroo). See
introductory note to poem; also note, l. 223.

=86-91. There go!= etc. The touching solicitation of these lines is
wholly Arnold's.

=99. Why ruler's staff, no sword?=

=101. Kara Kul.= A district some thirty miles southwest of Bokhara,
noted for the excellence of its pasturage, and for its fleeces.

=107. Haman.= Next to Peran-Wisa in command of Tartar army. See
Houman, in introductory note to poem.

=113-114. Casbin.= A fortified city in the province of Irak-Ajemi,
Persia, situated on the main route from Persia to Europe, and at one
time the capital of the Iranian empire. Just to the north of the city
rise the =Elburz Mountains= (l. 114), which separate the Persian
Plateau from the depression containing the Caspian and Aral Seas.

=115. frore.= Frozen, from the Anglo-Saxon _froren_.

"... the parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire."

--MILTON. _Paradise Lost_, ll. 594-595, Book II.

=119. Bokhara.= Here the state of Bokhara, an extensive region of
Central Asia, touching the Aral Sea to the north, the Oxus to the
south, and Khiva to the west. It has an estimated area of 235,000
square miles, and contains nineteen cities of considerable size, of
which the capital, Bokhara, is most important.

=120. Khiva.= A khanate situated in the valley of the lower Oxus,
bordering Bokhara on the southeast. =ferment the milk of mares.= An
intoxicating drink, _Koumiss_, made of camel's or mare's milk, is in
wide use among the steppe tribes.
=121. Toorkmuns.= A branch of the Turkish race found chiefly in
northern Persia and Afghanistan.

=122. Tukas.= From the province of Azer-baijan.

=123. Attruck.= A river of Khorassan, near the frontier of Khiva; it
has a west course, and enters the Caspian Sea on the east side.

=128. Ferghana.= A khanate of Turkestan, north of Bokhara, in the
upper valley of the Sir Daria.

=129. Jaxartes.= The ancient name of the Sir Daria River. It takes its
source in the Thian Shan Mountains, one of the Pamir Plateau ranges,
and flows with a general direction north, emptying into the Aral Sea
on the east side.

=131. Kipchak.= A khanate some seventy miles below Khiva on the Oxus.

=132. Kalmucks.= A nomadic branch of the Mongolian race, dwelling in
western Siberia. =Kuzzaks.= Now commonly called Cossacks; a warlike
people inhabiting the steppes of southern Russia and extensive
portions of Asia. Their origin is uncertain.

=133. Kirghizzes.= A rude nomadic people of Mongolian-Tartar race
found in northern Turkestan.

=138. Khorassan.= (That is, the region of the sun.) A province of
northeastern Persia, largely desert. The origin of the name is
prettily suggested by Moore in the opening poem of _Lalla Rookh_:--

"In the delightful province of the sun
The first of Persian lands he shines upon," etc.

=147. fix'd.= Stopped suddenly, halted.

=154-169.= Note the effect the challenge has on the two armies.

=156. corn.= Here used with its European sense of "grain." It is only
in America that the word signifies Indian corn or "maize."
=160. Cabool.= Capital of northern Afghanistan, and an important
commercial city.

=161. Indian Caucasus.= A lofty mountain range north of Cabool, which
forms the boundary between Turkestan and Afghanistan.

=173. King.= See note, l. 85.

=177. lion's heart.= Explain the line. Why are the terms here used so
forcible in the mouth of Gudurz?

=178-183. Aloof he sits, etc.= One is reminded by Rustum's deportment
here, of Achilles sulking in his tent and nursing his wrath against
Agamemnon.--_Iliad_, Book I.

=199. sate.= Old form of "sat," common in poetry.

=200. falcon.= A kind of hawk trained to catch game birds.

=217. Iran.= The official name of Persia.

=221. Go to!= Hebraic expression. Frequently found in Shakespeare.

=223. Kai Khosroo.= According to the _Shah Nameh_, the thirteenth
Turanian king. He reigned in the sixth century B.C., and has been
identified with Cyrus the Great.

=230. Not that one slight helpless girl, etc.= See ll. 609-611, also
introduction to the poem.

=232. snow-haired Zal.= According to tradition, Zal was born with
snow-white hair. His father Lahm, believing this an ill omen, doomed
the unfortunate babe to be exposed on the loftiest summit of the
Elburz Mountains. The Simurgh, a great bird or griffin, found him and
cared for him till grown, then restored him to his repentant parent.
He subsequently married the Princess Rudabeh of Seistan, by whom he
became father of Rustum.

=243-248. He spoke ... men.= Note carefully Gudurz's argument. Why so
effective with Rustum?

=257. But I will fight unknown and in plain arms.= The shields and
arms of the champions were emblazoned with mottoes and devices. Why
does Rustum determine to lay aside his accustomed arms and fight
incognito? What effect does this determination have upon the ultimate
outcome of the situation? Read the story of the arming of Achilles
(Book XIX., Homer's _Iliad_), and compare with Rustum's preparation
for battle. [160]

=266. device.= See note, l. 257.

=277. Dight.= Adorned, dressed.

"The clouds in thousand liveries dight."
--MILTON. _L'Allegro,_ l. 62.

=286. Bahrein= or Aval. A group of islands in the Persian Gulf,
celebrated for its pearl fisheries.

=288. tale.= Beckoning, number.

"And every shepherd tells his _tale_,
Under the hawthorn in the dale."
--MILTON. _L'Allegro,_ ll. 67-68.

=306. flowers.= Decorates, beautifies with floral designs.

=311. perused.= Studied, observed closely.

=318.= In a letter dated November, 1852, Mr. Arnold speaks of the
figures in his poem as follows: "I can only say that I took a great
deal of trouble to orientalize them, because I thought they looked
strange, and jarred, if western." What is gained by their use?

=325. vast.= Large, mighty.

=326. tried.= Proved, experienced.

=328. Never was that field lost or that foe saved.= Note the power
gained in this line by the use of the alliteration.

=330. Be govern'd.= Be influenced, persuaded.

=343. by thy father's head!= Such oaths are common to the extravagant
speech of the oriental peoples.

=344. Art thou not Rustum?= See introductory note to poem.

=367. vaunt.= Boast implied in the challenge.

=380. Thou wilt not fright me so!= That is, by such talk.

=401. tower'd.= Remained stationary, poised.

=406. full struck.= Struck squarely.
=412. Hyphasis, Hydaspes.= Two of the rivers of the Punjab in northern
India, now known as the Beas and Jhylum. In 326 B.C. Alexander
defeated Porus on the banks of the latter stream.

=414. wrack.= Ruin, havoc. (Poetical.)

=418. glancing.= In the sense of darting aside.

=435. hollow.= Unnatural in tone.

=452. like that autumn-star.= Probably Sirius, the Dog Star, under
whose ascendency, according to ancient beliefs, epidemic diseases

=454. crest.= That is, helmet and plume.

=466. Remember all thy valour.= That is, summon up all your courage.

=469. girl's wiles.= Explain the line.

=470. kindled.= Roused, angered.

=481. unnatural.= because of the kinship of the combatants.

=481-486. for a cloud=, etc. A distinctly Homeric imitation. Cf. the
cloud that enveloped Paris--Book III., ll. 465-469, of the _Iliad_.

=489. And the sun sparkled=, etc. Why this reference to the clear Oxus
stream at this moment of intense tragedy?

=495. helm.= Helmet; defensive armor for the head.

=497. shore.= Past tense of _shear_, to cut.

=499. bow'd his head:= because of the force of the blow.

=508. curdled.= Thickened as with fear.

=516. Rustum!= Why did this word so affect Sohrab? Note the author's
skill in working up to this climax in the narrative.

=527-539. Then with a bitter smile=, etc. Compare these words of
the victor, Rustum, with the words of Sohrab, ll. 427-447, when the
advantage was with him.

=536. glad.= Make happy.

"That which _gladded_ all the warrior train."
=538. Dearer to the red jackals=, etc. Cf. I. Sam. xvii. 44: "Come to
me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the
beasts of the field." Careful investigation will show the poem to
abound with Biblical as well as classical parallelisms.

=556-575. As when some hunter, etc.= One of the truly great similes in
the English language.

=563. sole.= Alone, solitary. From the Latin _solus_.

=570. glass.= Reflect as in a mirror.

=596. bruited up.= Noised abroad.

=613. the style.= The name or title.

=625. that old king.= The king of Semenjan. See introductory note to

=632. Of age and looks=, etc. That is, of such age as he (Sohrab)
would be, if born of his (Rustum's) union with Tahmineh.

=658-660. I tell thee, prick'd upon this arm=, etc. This is Arnold's
conception. In the original story Sohrab wore an onyx stone as an
amulet. The onyx was supposed to incite the wearer to deeds of valor.

=664. corselet.= Protective armor for the body.

=673. cunning.= Skilful, deft.

=679. griffin.= In the natural history of the ancients, an imaginary
animal, half lion and half eagle. Here the Simurgh. See note, l. 232.

=708-710. unconscious hand.= Note how the dying Sohrab seeks to
console the grief-stricken Rustum.

"Such is my destiny, such is the will of fortune.
It was decreed that I should perish by the hand of my father."

--_Shah Nameh_.

=717. have found= (him). Note the ellipsis.

=723-724. I came ... passing wind.= The _Shah Nameh_ has--

"I came like a flash of lightning, and now I depart like the wind."

=736. caked the sand.= Hardened into cakes.

=751. Helmund.= See note, l. 82. [163]

=752. Zirrah.= Another lake in Seistan, southeast of Hamoon, now
almost dry.

=763-765. Moorghab, Tejend and Kohik.= Rivers of Turkestan which lose
themselves in the deserts to the south of Bokhara. The northern Sir is
the Sir Daria, or Jaxartes. See note, l. 129.

=788. And heap a stately mound=, etc. Persian tradition says that a
large monument, in shape like the hoof of a horse, was placed over the
spot where Sohrab was buried.

=830. on that day.= Shortly after the death of Afrasiab, the Persian
monarch Kai Khosroo, accompanied by a large number of his nobles, went
to a spring far to the north, the location fixed upon as a place
for their repose. Here the king died, and those who went with him
afterward perished in a tempest. Sohrab predicted Rustum would be one
of those lost, but tradition does not have it so.

=861. Persepolis.= An ancient capital of Persia, the ruins of which
are known as "the throne of Jemshid," after a mythical king.

=878. Chorasma.= A region of Turkestan, the seat of a powerful empire
in the twelfth century, but now greatly reduced. Its present limits
are about the same as those of Khiva. See note, l. 120.

=880. Right for the polar star.= That is, due north. =Orgunje.= A
village on the Oxus some seventy miles below Khiva, and near the head
of its delta.

=890. luminous home.= The Aral Sea.

=891. new bathed stars.= As the stars appear on the horizon, they seem
to have come up out of the sea.

=875-892.= Discuss the poet's purpose in introducing the remarkable
word-picture of these closing lines of the poem. See also note, ll.
231-250, _The Scholar-Gipsy._


In this poem Arnold has vividly presented a quaint legend of Judas
Iscariot, popular in the Middle Ages. Saint Brandan (490-577) was
a celebrated Irish monk, famous for his voyages. "According to the
legendary accounts of his travels, he set sail with others to seek the
terrestrial paradise which was supposed to exist in an island of the
Atlantic. Various miracles are related of the voyage, but they are
always connected with the great island where the monks are said to
have landed. The legend was current in the time of Columbus and
long after, and many connected St. Brandan's island with the newly
discovered America. He is commemorated on May 16."--_The Century
Cyclopedia of Names_.

=7. Hebrides.= A group of islands off the northwestern coast of

=11. hurtling Polar lights.= A reference to the rapid, changing
movements of the Aurora Borealis.

=18. Of hair that red.= According to tradition, Judas Iscariot's hair
was red.

=21. sate.= See note, l. 199, _Sohrab and Rustum_. (Old form of "sat,"
common in poetry.)

=31. self-murder.= After betraying Christ, Judas hanged himself. See
Matt, xxvii. 5 and Acts i. 18.

=38. The Leper recollect.= There is no scriptural authority for this

=40. Joppa=, or Jaffa. A small maritime town of Palestine--the ancient
port of Jerusalem. There is also a small village called Jaffa in
Galilee, some two miles southwest of Nazareth, which may have been the
place the poet had in mind.

Image the situation as presented in the first several stanzas. Why
locate in the sea without a "human shore," l. 12? Is there any
especial reason for having the time Christmas night? Note the dramatic
introduction of Judas. What effect did his appearance have on the
saint? How was the latter reassured? Give reasons why Judas felt
impelled to tell his story. Tell the story. Does he praise or belittle
his act of charity? Why does he say "that _chance_ act of good"? How
was it rewarded? Explain his last expression. Was he about to say
more? If so, what? What effect did Judas's story have on Saint
Brandan? Why? What is the underlying thought in the poem? Discuss the
form of verse used and its appropriateness to the theme. [165]


"The title of this poem inevitably brings to mind Tennyson's two
poems, _The Merman_ and _The Mermaid_. A comparison will show that, in
this instance at least, the Oxford poet has touched his subject not
less melodiously and with finer and deeper feeling.--Margaret will not
listen to her 'Children's voices, wild with pain';--dearer to her is
the selfish desire to save her own soul than is the light in the eyes
of her little Mermaiden, dearer than the love of the king of the sea,
who yearns for her with sorrow-laden heart. Here is there an infinite
tenderness and an infinite tragedy."
--L. DUPONT SYLE, _From Milton to Tennyson_.

Legends of this kind abound among the sea-loving Gaelic and Cymric
people. Nowhere, perhaps, have they been given a more pleasing and
touching expression than in Arnold's poem. Note carefully the dramatic
manner in which the pathos of the story is presented and developed.

=6. wild white horses.= Breakers, whitecaps.

=13. Margaret.= A favorite name with Arnold. See _Isolation_ and _A
Dream_ in this volume.

=39. ranged.= See note, l. 73, _The Strayed Reveller_. (wander
aimlessly about.)

=42. mail.= Protective covering.

=54.= Why "down swung the sound of a far-off bell"? [166]

=81. seal'd.= Fastened; fixed intently upon, as though spellbound.

=89-93. Hark ... sun.= In her song Margaret shows she is still keenly
alive to human interests, temporal and spiritual. The priest, bell,
and holy well (l. 91) symbolize the church, here Roman Catholic. The
bell is used in the Roman Church to call especial attention to the
more important portions of the service; the well is the holy-water

=129. heaths starr'd with broom.= The flower of the broom plant,
common in England, is yellow; hence, _starr'd_.

In his work on Matthew Arnold, George Saintsbury speaks of this poem
as follows: "It is, I believe, not so 'correct' as it once was to
admire this [poem]; but I confess indocility to correctness, at least
the correctness which varies with fashion. _The Forsaken Merman_ is
not a perfect poem--it has _tongueurs_, though it is not long; it has
its inadequacies, those incompetences of expression which are so oddly
characteristic of its author; and his elaborate simplicity, though
more at home here than in some other places, occasionally gives a
dissonance. But it is a great poem,--one by itself,--one which finds
and keeps its own place in the fore-ordained gallery or museum, with
which every true lover of poetry is provided, though he inherits it by
degrees. None, I suppose, will deny its pathos; I should be sorry for
any one who fails to perceive its beauty. The brief picture of the
land, and the fuller one of the sea, and that (more elaborate still)
of the occupations of the fugitive, all have their charm. But the
triumph of the piece is in one of those metrical coups, which give
the triumph of all the greatest poetry, in the sudden change from the
slower movements of the earlier stanzas, or strophes, to the quicker
sweep of the famous conclusions."
What is the opening situation in the poem? Have the merman and his
children just reached the shore, or have they been there some time?
Why so? Why does the merman still linger, when he is convinced that
further delay will count for nothing? Why does he urge the children to
call? What is shown by his repeated question--"was it yesterday"? Tell
the story of Margaret's departure for the upper world, and discuss the
validity of her reason for going. Do you think she intended to return?
What is the significance of her smile just before departing? Give
a word picture of what the sea-folk saw as they lingered in the
churchyard. Will Margaret ever grieve for the past? If so, when? Why?
Who has your sympathy most, Margaret, the forsaken merman, or the
children? Why? Do you condemn Margaret for the way she has done, or do
you feel she was justified in her actions? Discuss the versification,
giving special attention to its effect on the movement of the poem.


The story of Tristram and Iseult is one of the most vivid and
passionate of the Arthurian cycle of legends, and is a favorite with
the poets. The following version is abridged from Dunlop's _History of

"In the court of his uncle, King Marc, the king of Cornwall, who at
this time resided at the castle of Tyntagel, Tristram became expert
in all knightly exercises.... The king of Ireland, at Tristram's
solicitation, promised to bestow his daughter Iseult in marriage on
King Marc.... The mother of Iseult gave to her daughter's confidante
a philtre, or love-potion, to be administered on the night of her
nuptials. Of this beverage Tristram and Iseult unfortunately partook.
Its influence, during the remainder of their lives, regulated the
affections and destiny of the lovers.
"After the arrival of Tristram and Iseult in Cornwall, and the
nuptials of the latter with King Marc, a great part of the romance
is occupied with their contrivances to procure secret interviews ...
Tristram, being forced to leave Cornwall on account of the displeasure
of his uncle, repaired to Brittany, where lived Iseult with the White
Hands. He married her, more out of gratitude than love. Afterwards
he proceeded to the dominions of Arthur which became the theatre of
unnumbered exploits.

"Tristram, subsequent to these events, returned to Brittany and to
his long-neglected wife. There, being wounded and sick, he was soon
reduced to the lowest ebb. In this situation he despatched a confidant
to the queen of Cornwall to try if he could induce her to follow him
to Brittany.

"Meanwhile Tristram awaited the arrival of the queen with such
impatience that he employed one of his wife's damsels to watch at the
harbor. Through her, Iseult learned Tristram's secret, and filled with
jealousy, flew to her husband as the vessel which bore the queen of
Cornwall was wafted toward the harbor, and reported that the sails
were black (the signal that Iseult, Marc's queen, had refused
Tristram's request to come to him). Tristram, penetrated with
inexpressible grief, died. The account of Tristram's death was the
first intelligence which the queen of Cornwall heard on landing. She
was conducted to his chamber, and expired holding him in her arms."

=1. Is she not come?= That is, Iseult of Ireland. Arnold's poem takes
up the story at the point where Tristram, now on his death-bed, is
watching eagerly for the coming of Iseult, Marc's queen, for whom he
had sent his confidant to Cornwall. Evidently he has just awakened
and is still somewhat confused; see l. 7. Surely none will fail to
appreciate so dramatic a situation.

=5. What ... be?= That is, what lights are those to the northward, the
direction from which Iseult would come?
=8. Iseult.= Here Iseult of the White Hands, daughter of King Hoel of
Brittany and wife of Tristram.

=20. Arthur's court.= Arthur, the half-mythical king of the Britons,
set up his court at Camelot, which Caxton locates in Wales and Malory
near Winchester. Here was gathered the famous company of champions
known as the "Knights of the Round Table," whose feats have been
extensively celebrated in song and story. Among these knights Tristram
held high rank, both as a warrior and a harpist. See ll. 17-19.

=23. Lyoness.= A mythical region near Cornwall, the home country of
Arthur and Tristram.

=30-31.= Hence the name, Iseult of the White Hands.

=56-68.= See introductory note to poem for explanation. =Tyntagel.=
A village in Cornwall near the sea. Near it is the ruined Tyntagel
Castle, the reputed birthplace of Arthur. In the romance of Sir
Tristram it is the castle of King Marc, the cowardly and treacherous
king of Cornwall, the southwest county of England. =teen=. See note,
l. 147, _The Scholar-Gipsy_. (Grief, sorrow; from the old English
_teona_, meaning injury.)

=88. wanders=, in fancy. Note how the wounded knight's mind flits from
scene to scene, always centring around Iseult of Ireland.

=91. O'er ... sea.= The Irish Sea. He is dreaming of his return trip
from Ireland with Iseult, "under the cloudless sky of May" (l. 96).

=129-132.= See introductory note to poem. The green isle, Ireland is
noted for its green fields; hence the name, Emerald (green) Isle.

=134. on loud Tyntagel's hill.= A high headland on the coast of Wales.
Discuss the force of the adjective "loud" in this connection.

=137-160. And that ... more.= See introductory note to poem.

=161. pleasaunce-walks.= A pleasure garden, screened by trees, shrubs,
and close hedges--here a trysting-place. After the marriage of
Iseult to King Marc, she and Tristram contrived to continue their
relationship in secret. [170]

=164. fay.= Faith. (Obsolete except in poetry.)

=180.= Tristram, having been discovered by King Marc in his intrigues
with Iseult, was forced to leave Cornwall; hence his visit to Brittany
and subsequent marriage to Iseult of the White Hands. See introductory
note to poem.

=192. lovely orphan child.= Iseult of Brittany.

=194. chatelaine.= From the French, meaning the mistress of a
chateau--a castle or fortress.

=200. stranger-knight, ill-starr'd.= That is, Tristram, whose many
mishaps argued his being born under an unlucky star. See also the
account of his birth, note, ll. 81-88, Part II.

=203. Launcelot's guest at Joyous Gard.= Prior to his visit to
Brittany, Tristram had imprisoned his uncle, King Marc, and eloped
with Iseult to the domains of King Arthur. While there he resided
at Joyous Gard, the favorite castle of Launcelot, which that knight
assigned to the lovers as their abode.

=204. Welcomed here.= That is, in Brittany, where he was nursed back
to health by Iseult of the White Hands. See introductory note to poem.

=215-226. His long rambles ... ground.= Account for Tristram's
discontent, as indicated in these lines.

=234-237. All red ... bathed in foam.= The kings of Britain agreed
with Arthur to make war upon Rome. Arthur, leaving Modred in charge
of his kingdom, made war upon the Romans, and, after a number
of encounters, Lucius Tiberius was killed and the Britons were
victorious.--GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH, Book IV, Chapter XV; Book X,
Chapters I-XIII. According to Malory, Arthur captured many French and
Italian cities (see ll. 250-251); during this continental invasion,
and was finally crowned king at Rome. It seems that he afterward
despatched a considerable number of his knights to carry the Christian
faith among the heathen German tribes. See ll. 252-253. [171]

=238. moonstruck knight.= A reference to the mystical influence the
ancients supposed the moon to exert over men's minds and actions.

=239. What foul fiend rides thee?= What evil spirit possesses you and
keeps you from the fight?

=240. her.= That is, Iseult of Ireland.

=243. wanders forth again=, in fancy.

=245. secret in his breast.= What secret?

=250-253.= See note, ll. 234-237. =blessed sign.= The cross.

=255. Roman Emperor.= That is, Lucius Tiberius. See note, ll. 234-237.

=258. leaguer.= Consult dictionary.

=261. what boots it?= That is, what difference will it make?

=303. recks not.= Has no thought of (archaic).

=308-314. My princess ... good night.= Are Tristram's words sincere,
or has he a motive in thus dismissing Iseult?

=373-374.= From a dramatic standpoint, what is the purpose of these
two lines?


With the opening of Part II the lovers are restored to each other.
The dying Tristram, worn with fever and impatient with long waiting,
unjustly charges Iseult with cruelty for not having come to him with
greater haste. Her gentle, loving words, however, quickly dispel his
doubts as to her loyalty to her former vows. A complete reconciliation
takes place, and they die in each other's embrace. The picture of the
Huntsman on the arras is one of the most notable in English poetry.

=47. honied nothings=. Explain. Compare with

"his tongue Dropt manna." [172]
--_Paradise Lost_, ll. 112-113, Book II.

=81-88=. Tristram was born in the forest, where his mother Isabella,
sister to King Marc, had gone in search of her recreant husband.

=97-100=. Tennyson, in _The Last Tournament_, follows Malory in the
story of Tristram's and Iseult's death. "That traitor, King Mark, slew
the noble knight, Sir Tristram, as he sat harping before his lady,
La Beale Isoud, with a trenchant glaive, for whose death was much
bewailing of every knight that ever was in Arthur's days ... and La
Beale Isoud died swooning upon the cross of Sir Tristram, whereof was
great pity."--Malory's _Morte d' Arthur._

=113. sconce=. Consult dictionary.

=116-122=. Why this restlessness on the part of Iseult? Why her
frequent glances toward the door?

=132. dogg'd=. Worried, pursued. Coleridge uses the epithet
"star-dogged moon," l. 212, Part III, _The Ancient Mariner._

=147-193=. For the poet's purpose in introducing the remarkable
word-picture of these lines, see notes on the Tyrian trader, ll.
231-250, 232, _The Scholar-Gipsy._


After the death of Tristram and Iseult of Ireland, our thoughts
inevitably turn to Iseult of the White Hands. The infinite pathos of
her life has aroused our deepest sympathy, and we naturally want to
know further concerning her and Tristram's children.

=13. cirque=. A circle (obsolete or poetical). See l. 7, Part III.

=18. holly-trees and juniper=. Evergreen trees common in Europe and
=22. fell-fare= (or field-fare). A small thrush found in Northern

=26. stagshorn.= A common club-moss.

=37. old-world Breton history.= That is, the story of Merlin and
Vivian, ll. 153-224, Part III.

=79-81=. Compare with the following lines from Wordsworth's

"This light was famous in its neighborhood.
... For, as it chanced,
Their cottage on a plot of rising ground
Stood single....
And from this constant light so regular
And so far seen, the House itself, by all
Who dwelt within the limits of the vale
... was named _The Evening Star_."

=81. iron coast.= This line inevitably calls to mind a stanza from
Tennyson's _Palace of Art_:--

"One show'd an iron coast and angry waves.
You seemed to hear them climb and fall
And roar, rock-thwarted, under bellowing caves,
Beneath the windy wall."

=92. prie-dieu.= Praying-desk. From the French _prier_, pray; _dieu_,

=97. seneschal.= A majordomo; a steward. Originally meant _old_ (that
is, _chief) servant_; from the Gothic _sins_, old, and _salks_, a

=134. gulls.= Deceives, tricks.

"The vulgar, _gulled_ into rebellion, armed,"

=140.= posting here and there. That is, restlessly changing from place
to place and from occupation to occupation.

=143-145. Like that bold Caesar=, etc. Julius Caesar (100?-44 B.C.).
The incident here alluded to Is mentioned in Suetonius' _Life of the
Deified Julius_, Chapter VII. "Farther Spain fell to the lot of Caesar
as questor. When, at the command of the Roman people, he was holding
court and had come to Cadiz, he noticed in the temple of Hercules a
statue of Alexander the Great. At sight of this statue he sighed,
as if disgusted at his own lack of achievement, because he had done
nothing of note by the time in life (Caesar was then thirty-two) that
Alexander had conquered the world." (Free translation.) [174]

=146-150. Prince Alexander, etc.= Alexander III., surnamed "The
Great" (356-323 B.C.), was the most famous of Macedonian generals and
conquerors, and the first in order of time of the four most celebrated
commanders of whom history makes mention. In less than fifteen years
he extended his domain over the known world and established himself as
the universal emperor. He died at Babylon, his capital city, at the
age of thirty-three, having lamented that there were no more worlds
for him to conquer. (For the boundaries of his empire, see any map of
his time.) Pope spoke of him as "The youth who all things but himself
subdued." =Soudan= (l. 149). An obsolete term for Sultan, the Turkish

=153-224=. The story of Merlin, King Arthur's court magician, and the
enchantress Vivian is one of the most familiar of the Arthurian cycle
of legends. =Broce-liande= (l. 156). In Cornwall. See l. 61, Part
I. =fay= (l. 159). Fairy, =empire= (l. 184). That is, power; here
supernatural power. =wimple= (l. 220). A covering for the head. =Is
Merlin prisoner=, etc. (l. 223). Merlin, the magician, is thus
entrapped by means of a charm he had himself communicated to his
mistress, the enchantress Vivian. Malory has Merlin imprisoned under a
rock; Tennyson, in an oak:--

"And in the hollow oak he lay as dead
And lost to life and use and name and fame."
--_Merlin and Vivian_.
=224=. For she was passing weary, etc.

"And she was ever passing weary of him."

PART I. What is the opening situation in the poem? Why have it a
stormy night? What does Tristram's question (l. 7) reveal of his
condition physically and mentally? What is the office of the parts
of the poem coming between the intervals of conversation? How is the
wounded knight identified? How the lady? Follow the wanderings of the
sleeping Tristram's mind. Are the incidents he speaks of in the order
of their occurrence? Explain ll. 102-103; ll. 161-169. Tell the story
of Tristram and Iseult of the White Hands. What is shown by the fact
that Tristram's mind dwells on Iseult of Ireland even at the time of
battle? How account for his wanderings? For his morose frame of mind?
What change has come over nature when Tristram awakes? Why this
change? What is his mood now? Account for his addressing Iseult of
Brittany as he does. Why his order for her to retire? What is her
attitude toward him? Note the manner in which the children are
introduced into the story (ll. 324-325) PART II. Give the opening
situation. Discuss the meeting of Tristram and Iseult. What is
revealed by their conversation? What is the purpose in introducing the
Huntsman on the arras? PART III. What is the purpose of ll. 1-4? Give
the opening situation in Part III. How is Iseult trying to entertain
her children? What kind of a life does she lead? Discuss ll. 112-150
as to meaning and connection with the theme of the poem. Tell the
story of Merlin and Vivian. Why introduced? Compare Arnold's version
of the story of Tristram and Iseult with the version given in the
introductory note to the poem.



The church of Brou is actually located in a treeless Burgundian plain,
and not in the mountains, as stated by the poet.

=1. Savoy=. A mountainous district in eastern France; formerly one of
the divisions of the Sardinian States.

=3. mountain-chalets=. Properly, herdsmen's huts in the mountains of

=17. prickers=. Men sent into the thickets to start the game.

=35. dais=. Here, a canopy or covering.

=69. erst=. See note, l. 42, _The Scholar-Gipsy_. ( Formerly.
(Obsolete except in poetry.))

=71. chancel=. The part of a church in which the altar is placed.

=72. nave=. See note, ll. 70-76, _Epilogue to Lessing's Laocooen_.

=77. palmers=. Wandering religious votaries, especially those who bore
branches of palm as a token that they had visited the Holy Land and
its sacred places.

=109. fretwork=. Representing open woodwork.


=17. matin-chime=. Bells for morning worship.

=21. Chambery=. Capital of the department of Savoy Proper, on the

=22. Dight=. See l. 277, _Sohrab and Rustum_. (Adorned, dressed.)

=37. chisell'd broideries=. The carved draperies of the tombs.


=6. transept=. The transversal part of a church edifice, which crosses
at right angles between the nave and the choir (the upper portion),
thus giving to the building the form of a cross.

=39. foliaged marble forest=. Note the epithet.
=45. leads=. That is, the leaden roof. See l. 1, Part II. (Upon the
glistening leaden roof).


This poem, one of Arnold's best-known shorter lyrics, combines with
perfect taste, simplicity and elegance, with the truest pathos. It has
been said there is not a false note in it.

=13. cabin'd=. Used in the sense of being cramped for space.

=16. vasty=. Spacious, boundless.

What is the significance of strewing on the roses? Why "never a spray
of yew"? (See note, l.140, _The Scholar-Gipsy.)_ What seems to be the
author's attitude toward death? (Read his poem, _A Wish_.) Discuss the
poem as to its lyrical qualities.


=14. Holy Lassa= (that is, Land of the Divine Intelligence), the
capital city of Thibet and residence of the Dalai, or Grand Lama, the
pontifical sovereign of Thibet and East Asia. Here is located the
great temple of Buddha, a vast square edifice, surmounted by a gilded
dome, the temple, together with its precincts, covering an area of
many acres. Contiguous to it, on its four sides, are four celebrated
monasteries, occupied by four thousand recluses, and resorted to as
schools of the Buddhic religion and philosophy. There is, perhaps, no
other one place in the world where so much gold is accumulated for
superstitious purposes.

=17. Muses.= See note, l. 120, _The Strayed Reveller_.

=18. In their cool gallery=. That is, in the Vatican art gallery at

=19. yellow Tiber.= So called by the ancients because of the
yellowish, muddy appearance of its waters.
=21. Strange unloved uproar.= At the time this poem was
written,--1849,--the French army was besieging Rome.

=23. Helicon.= High mountain in Boeotia, legendary home of the

=32. Erst.= See note, l. 32, _The Scholar-Gipsy_.

=48. Destiny.= That is, Fate, the goddess of human destiny.

In what mood is the author at the opening of the poem? How does he
seek consolation? How does the calm of the Muses affect him? Can you
see how he might find help in dwelling on the pictures of the blind
beggar and happy lovers? What is the final thought of the poem? Can
you think of any other poem that has this as its central thought? What
do you think of the author's philosophy of life as set forth in this
poem? Discuss the verse form used.



The Kensington Gardens form one of the many beautiful public parks of
London. They are located in the Kensington parish, a western suburb of
the city, lying north of the Thames and four miles west-southwest of
St. Paul's. In his poem Arnold contrasts the serenity of nature
with the restlessness of modern life. "Not Lucan, not Vergil,
only Wordsworth, has more beautifully expressed the spirit of
Pantheism."--HERBERT W. PAUL.

=4.= The pine trees here mentioned are since dead.

=14. What endless active life!= Compare with Arnold's sonnet of this
volume, entitled _Quiet Work_, ll. 4-7 and 11-12.

=21. the huge world.= London.

=24. Was breathed on by rural Pan.= Note Arnold's classic way of
accounting for his great love for nature, Pan being the nature god.
See note, l. 67, _The Strayed Reveller_.
=37-42.= Compare the thought here presented with the following lines
from Wordsworth:--

"These beauteous forms,
... have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye.
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
... sensations sweet
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration."

Read also Wordsworth's _Lines to the Daffodil_.

What is the dominant mood of the poem? What evidently brought it to
the author's mind? How does he show his interest in nature? In human
beings? What inspiration does the author seek from nature, ll. 37-42?
Explain the meaning of the last two lines.


"I have such a love for these forms and this old Greek world, that
perhaps I infuse a little soul into my dealings with them, which saves
me from being entirely _ennuyx_, professorial and pedantic." (Matthew
Arnold, in a letter to his sister, dated February, 1858.)

Circe, according to Greek mythology, was an enchantress, who dwelt in
the island of AEaea, and who possessed the power to transform men
into beasts. (See any mythological text on Ulysses' wanderings.) In
Arnold's fantastic, visionary poem, the magic potion, by which this
transformation is accomplished, affects not the body, but the mind of
the youth.

=12. ivy-cinctured.= That is, girdled with ivy, symbolic of Bacchus,
the god of wine and revelry, whose forehead was crowned with ivy. See
also l. 33. [180]

=36. rout.= Consult dictionary.

=38. Iacchus.= In the Eleusinian mysteries, Bacchus bore the name of
Iacchus. =fane.= A temple. From the Latin _fanum_, a place of worship
dedicated to any deity.

=48. The lions sleeping.= As Ulysses' companions approached Circe's
palace, following their landing on her island, they found themselves
"surrounded by lions, tigers, and wolves, not fierce but tamed by
Circe's art, for she was a powerful magician."

=67. Pan's flute music!= Pan, the god of pastures and woodlands,
was the inventor of the syrinx, or shepherd's flute, with which he
accompanied himself and his followers in the dance.

=71. Ulysses.= The celebrated hero of the Trojan war; also famous for
his wanderings. One of his chief adventures, on his return voyage from
Troy, was with the enchantress Circe, with whom he tarried a year,
forgetful of his faithful wife, Penelope, at home.

=72. Art.= That is, are you. (Now used only in solemn or poetic

=73. range.= Wander aimlessly about.

=74. See what the day brings.= That is, the youth. See ll. 24-52

=81. Nymphs.= Goddesses of the mountains, forests, meadows, or waters,
belonging to the lower rank of deities.

=102-107.= Compare in thought with Tennyson's poem, _Ulysses_.

=110. The favour'd guest of Circe.= Ulysses. See note, l. 71.

=120. Muses.= Daughters of Jupiter and Minemosyne, nine in number.
According to the earliest writers the Muses were only the inspiring
goddesses of song; but later they were looked to as the divinities
presiding over the different kinds of poetry, and over the arts and
=130-135.= Note the poet's device for presenting a series of mental
pictures. Compare with Tennyson's plan in his _Palace of Art_. Does
Arnold's plan seem more or less mechanical than Tennyson's?

=135-142. Tiresias.= The blind prophet of =Thebes= (l. 142), the chief
city in Boeotia, near the river =Asopus= (l. 138). In his youth,
Tiresias unwittingly came upon Athene while she was bathing, and was
punished by the loss of sight. As a recompense for this misfortune,
the goddess afterward gave him knowledge of future events. The
inhabitants of Thebes looked to Tiresias for direction in times of

=143. Centaurs.= Monsters, half man, half horse.

=145. Pelion.= A mountain in eastern Thessaly, famous in Greek
mythology. In the war between the giants and the gods, the former, in
their efforts to scale the heavens, piled Ossa upon Olympus and Pelion
upon Ossa.

=151-161.= What in these lines enables you to determine the people and
country alluded to?

=162-167. Scythian ... embers.= The ancient Greek term for the nomadic
tribes inhabiting the whole north and northeast Europe and Asia. As
a distinct people they built no cities, and formed no general
government, but wandered from place to place by tribes, in their rude,
covered carts (see l. 164), living upon the coarsest kind of food (ll.

=177-180. Clusters of lonely mounds, etc.= That is, ruins of ancient

=183. Chorasmian stream.= See note, l. 878, _Sohrab and Rustum_.

=197. milk-barr'd onyx-stones.= A reference to the white streaks, or
bars, common to the onyx.

=206. Happy Islands.= Mythical islands lying far to the west, the
abode of the heroes after death.

=220. Hera's anger.= Hera (or Juno), wife to Jupiter, was noted for
her violent temper and jealousy. She is here represented as visiting
punishment upon the bard, perhaps out of jealousy of the gods who had
endowed him with poetic power, and his life, thus afflicted, seems
lengthened to seven ages. [182]

=228-229. Lapithae.= In Greek legends, a fierce Thessalian race,
governed by Pirothous, a half-brother to the Centaurs. =Theseus.= The
chief hero of Attica, who, according to tradition, united the several
tribes of Attica into one state, with Athens as the capital. His life
was filled with adventure. The reference here is to the time of the
marriage of Pirothous and Hippodamia, on which occasion the Centaurs,
who were among the guests, became intoxicated, and offered indignities
to the bride. In the fight that followed, Theseus joined with the
Lapithae, and many of the Centaurs were slain.

=231. Alcmena's dreadful son.= Hercules. On his expedition to capture
the Arcadian boar, his third labor, Hercules became involved in a
broil with the Centaurs, and in self-defence slew several of them with
his arrows.

=245. Oxus stream.= See note, l. 2, _Sohrab and Rustum_.

=254. Heroes.= The demigods of mythology.

=257. Troy.= The capital of Troas, Asia Minor; the seat of the Trojan war.

=254-260.= Shortly after the close of the Trojan war, a party of
heroes from all parts of Greece, many of whom had participated in the
expeditions against Thebes and Troy, set out under the leadership of
Jason to capture the Golden Fleece. Leaving the shores of Thessaly,
the adventurers sailed eastward and finally came to the entrance of
the =Euxine Sea= (the =unknown sea=, l. 260), which was guarded by
the Clashing Islands. Following the instructions of the sage Phineus,
Jason let fly a dove between the islands, and at the moment of
rebound the expedition passed safely through. The ship in which the
adventurers sailed was called the Argo, after its builder, Argus;
hence our term Argonauts.
=261. Silenus.= A divinity of Asiatic origin; foster-father to Bacchus
and leader of the =Fauns= (l. 265), satyr-like divinities, half man,
half goat, sometimes represented in art as hearing torches (l. 274).

=275. Maenad.= A bacchante,--a priestess or votary of Bacchus.

=276. Faun with torches.= See note, l. 261.

What is the situation at the beginning of the poem? What effect does
the "liquor" have upon the youth? Why is the presence of Ulysses so
much in harmony with the situation? How does he greet Circe; how the
youth? What does his presence suggest to the latter? Why? Note the
vividness of the pictures he describes; also the swiftness with which
he changes from one to another. What power is ascribed to the poet?
Why his "pain"? What effect is gained by closing the poem with the
same words with which it is opened? Why the irregular verse used?


In this poem is expressed the peculiar turn of Arnold's mind, at once
religious and sceptical, philosophical and emotional. It is one of his
most passionate interpretations of life.

=15. Sophocles= (495-406 B.C.). One of the three great tragic poets of
Greece. His rivals were AEschylus (526-456 B.C.) and Euripides (486-406

=16. AEgean Sea.= See note, l. 236, _The Scholar-Gipsy_.

* * * * *

Image the scene in the opening stanzas. What is the author's mood?
Why does he call some one to look on the scene with him? What is the
"eternal note of sadness"? Why connect it in thought with the sea? Why
does this thought suggest Sophocles? What thought next presents itself
to the author's mind? From what source must one's help and comfort
then be drawn? Why so? Why the irregular versification? State the
theme of the poem. [184]


"Philomela unites the sensibilities and intellectual experience of
modern Englishmen with the luminousness and simplicity of Greek

The myth of the nightingale has long been a favorite with the poets,
who have variously interpreted the bird's song. See Coleridge's,
Keats's, and Wordsworth's poems on the subject. The most common
version of the myth, the one followed by Arnold, is as follows:--

"Pandion (son of Erichthonius, special ward to Minerva) had two
daughters, Procne and Philomela, of whom he gave the former in
marriage to Tereus, king of Thrace (or of Daulis in Phocis). This
ruler, after his wife had borne him a son, Itys (or Itylus), wearied
of her, plucked out her tongue by the roots to insure her silence,
and, pretending that she was dead, took in marriage the other sister,
Philomela. Procne, by means of a web, into which she wove her story,
informed Philomela of the horrible truth. In revenge upon Tereus, the
sisters killed Itylus, and served up the child as food to the father;
but the gods, in indignation, transformed Procne into a swallow,
Philomela into a nightingale, forever bemoaning the murdered Itylus,
and Tereus into a hawk, forever pursuing the sisters."--GAYLEY'S
_Classic Myths_.

=4.= Use the subjoined questions in studying the poem.

=5. O wanderer from a Grecian shore.= See note, l. 27.

=8.= Note the aptness and beauty of the adjectives in this line, not
one of which could be omitted without irreparable loss.

=18. Thracian wild.= Thrace was the name used by the early Greeks for
the entire region north of Greece.
=21. The too clear web=, etc. See introductory note to poem for
explanation of this and the following lines.

=27. Daulis.= A city of Phocis, Greece, twelve miles northeast of
Delphi; the scene of the myth of Philomela. =Cephessian vale.= The
valley of the Cephissus, a small stream running through Doris, Phocis,
and Boeotia, into the Euboean Gulf.

=29. How thick the bursts=, etc. Compare with the following lines from

"'Tis the merry nightingale
That crowds and hurries and precipitates
With fast, thick warble his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music!"
--_The Nightingale_.


"O Nightingale! thou surely art
A creature of a 'fiery heart':--
These notes of thine--they pierce and pierce;
Tumultuous harmony and fierce!
Thou sing'st as if the god of wine
Had helped thee to a Valentine."

=31-32. Eternal passion!
Eternal pain!= Compare:--

"Thou warblest sad thy pity-pleading strains."
--COLERIDGE, _To a Nightingale_.


"Sweet bird ...
Most musical, most melancholy!"
--MILTON, _Il Penseroso_.

Image the scene in the poem. How does the author secure the proper
atmosphere for the theme of the poem? Account for the note of triumph
in the nightingale's song; note of pain. What is shown by the poet's
question, ll. 10-15? What new qualities are added to the nightingale's
song, l. 25? Account for them. Why _eternal_ passion, _eternal_ pain?
Do you feel the form of verse used (Pindaric blank) to be adapted to
the theme? [186]


=4. kept uninfringed my nature's law.= That is, have lived a perfect

=5. inly-written chart.= The conscience.

=8. incognisable.= Not to be comprehended by finite mind.

=23. prore.= Poetical word for _prow_, the fore part of a ship.

=27. stem.= Consult dictionary.

What important incident in the destiny of the soul is alluded to in
stanza 1? Interpret ll. 13-14, and apply to your own experience. Why
cannot we live "chance's fool"? Is there any hint of fatalism in the
poem, or are we held accountable for our own destiny?



This poem, the fifth in a loosely connected group of lyrics, under the
general name _Switzerland_, is a continuation of the preceding
poem, _Isolation--to Marguerite_, and is properly entitled, _To
Marguerite--Continued_. When printed separately, the above title is

Jacopo Ortis was a pseudonym of the Italian poet, Ugo Foscolo. His
_Ultime Lettere di Ortis_ was translated into the English in 1818.

=1. Yes!= Used in answer to the closing thought of the preceding poem.

=7. moon.= Note the frequency with which reference to the moon, with
its light effects, appears in Arnold's lines. Can you give any reason
for this?

=24.= Mr. Herbert W. Paul, commenting on this line, says: "_Isolation_
winds up with one of the great poetic phrases of the century--one of
the 'jewels five (literally five) words long' of English verse--a
phrase complete and final, with epithets in unerring cumulation."

Give the poem's theme. To what is each individual likened? Discuss l.2
as to meaning. In what sense do we live "alone," l.4? Why "endless
bounds," l.6? How account for the feeling of despair, l.13? Answer the
questions asked in the last stanza. In what frame of mind does the
poem leave you?


APRIL 6, 1887

Arnold's love for animals, especially his household pets, was most
sincere. Despite the playful irony of his poem, there is in the minor
key an undertone of genuine sorrow. "We have just lost our dear, dear
mongrel, Kaiser," he wrote in a letter dated from his home in Cobham,
Kent, April 7, 1887, "and we are very sad." The poem was written the
following July, and was published in the _Fortnightly Review_ for that

=2. Cobham.= See note above.

=3. Farringford,= in the Isle of Wight, was the home of Lord Tennyson.

=5. Pen-bryn's bold bard.= Sir Lewis Morris, author of the _Epic of
Hades_, lived at Pen-bryn, in Caermarthanshire.
=11-12.= In Burns's poem, _Poor Mailie's Elegy_, occur the following

"Come, join the melancholious croon
O' Robin's reed."

=20. Potsdam.= The capital of the government district of Potsdam, in
the province of Brandenburg, Prussia; hence the dog's name, _Kaiser_.

=41. the Grand Old Man.= Gladstone.

=50. agog.= In a state of eager excitement.

=65. Geist.= Also remembered in a poem entitled _Geist's Grave_,
included in this volume.

=76. chiel.= A Scotch word meaning lad, fellow.

"Buirdly _chiels_ an clever hizzies."
--BURNS, _The Twa Dogs_.

=Skye.= The largest of the Inner Hebrides. See note, l. 7, _Saint


In this poem Arnold describes the plight of one engaged in a hopeless
struggle against an uncompromising, Philistine world too strong for

State the central thought in the poem. To whom is it addressed? What
is the _narrow bed_, l. 1? Why give up the struggle? With whom has it
been waged? Explain fully l. 4. What is implied in l. 6? What is meant
by _ringing shot_, l. 11? Who are the victors, l. 14? What would they
probably say on finding the body near the wall? Can you think of any
historical characters of whom the poem might aptly have been written?


At the time of the Trojan war there was in the citadel of Troy a
celebrated statue of Pallas Athene, called the Palladium. It was
reputed to have fallen from heaven as the gift of Zeus, and the belief
was that the city could not be taken so long as this statue remained
within it. Ulysses and Diomedes, two of the Greek champions, succeeded
in entering the city in disguise, stole the Palladium and carried it
off to the besiegers' camp at Argos. It was some time, however, before
the city fell.

=1. Simois.= A small river of the Troad which takes its rise in the
rocky, wooded eminence which, according to Greek tradition, formed
the acropolis of Troy. The Palladium was set up on its banks near its
source, in a temple especially erected for it (l. 6), and from this
lofty position was supposed to watch over the safety of the city and
her defenders on the plains below.

=3. Hector.= Hector, son of Priam, king of Troy (Ilium), and his
wife, Hecuba, was the leader and champion of the Trojan armies. He
distinguished himself in numerous single combats with the ablest of
the Greek heroes; and to him was principally due the stubborn defence
of the Trojan capital. He was finally slain by Achilles, aided by
Athene, and his body dragged thrice around the walls of Troy behind
the chariot of his conqueror.

=14. Xanthus.= The Scamander, the largest and most celebrated river of
the Troad, near which Troy was situated, was presided over by a deity
known to the gods as Xanthus. His contest with Achilles, whom he so
nearly overwhelmed, forms a notable incident of the _Iliad_.

=15. Ajax, or Aiax.= One of the leading Greek heroes in the siege of
Troy, famous for his size, physical strength, and beauty. In bravery
and feats of valor he was second only to Achilles. Not being awarded
the armor of Achilles after that hero's death, he slew himself.
=16.= Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, was celebrated for
her beauty, by reason of which frequent references are made to her by
both classic and modern writers. Goethe introduces her in the second
part of _Faust_, and Faustus, in Marlowe's play of that name,
addresses her thus:--

"Oh! thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars."

Her abduction by Paris, son of Priam (see note, l. 3), was the cause
of the Trojan war, the most notable incident of Greek mythology, which
forms the theme of Homer's greatest poem, the _Iliad_.

What is the central thought of the poem? Of what is the Palladium
typical? Explain the thought in stanza 3. What is the force of the
references of stanza 4? Discuss the use of the words "rust" and
"shine," l. 17. Just what is meant by "soul" as the word is used in
the poem?


_Self-Dependence_ is a poem in every respect characteristic of its
author. In it Arnold exhorts mankind to seek refuge from human
troubles in the example of nature.

Picture the situation in the poem. What is the poet's mood as shown
in the opening stanzas? From what source does he seek aid? Why? What
answer does he receive? What is the source of nature's repose? Where
and how must the human soul find its contentment?


This poem appeared in the January number of the _Fortnightly Review_
for 1881.

=12. homily.= Sermon.

=15. the Virgilian cry.= _Sunt lacrimae rerum!_ These words are
interpreted in the following line.

=42. On lips that rarely form them now.= Arnold wrote but little
poetry after 1867.

=55-56. thine absent master.= Richard Penrose Arnold, the poet's only
surviving son.


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) was a celebrated German dramatist
and critic. For a time he studied theology at Leipsic, then turned his
attention to the stage, and later to criticism. His greatest critical
work (1766) is a treatise on Art, the famous Greek statuary group,
the Laocooen, which gives the work its name, forming the basis for a
comparative discussion of Sculpture, Poetry, Painting, and Music.

=1. Hyde Park.= The largest park in London, and the principal
recreation ground of that city.

=15. Phoebus-guarded ground.= Greece. Phoebus, a name often given
Apollo, the sun god.

=16. Pausanias.= A noted Greek geographer and writer on art who lived
in the second century. "His work, _The Gazetteer of Hellas_, is our
best repertory of information for the topography, local history,
religious observances, architecture, and sculpture of the different
states of Greece."--K.O. MUeLLER, _History of the Literature of Ancient
=21-22. Dante= (1265-1321), =Petrarch= (1304-1374), =Tasso= (1544-;
1595), =Ariosto= (1475-1533). Celebrated Italian poets.

=25. Raphael= (1483-1520). The famous Italian painter.

=29. Goethe= (1749-1832). The greatest name in German literature.
His works include poetry, dramas, and criticisms. =Wordsworth=
(1770-1850). See the poem, _Memorial Verses_, of this volume.

=35. Mozart= (1766-1791), =Beethoven= (1770-1827), =Mendelssohn=
(1809-1847). Noted musicians and composers.

=42. south.= Warm.

=43-48.= Cyclops Polyphemus, famous in the story of Ulysses, was
a persistent and jealous suitor of Galatea, the fairest of sea
divinities. So ardent was he in his wooings, that he would leave his
flocks to wander at will, while he sang his uncouth lays from the
hilltops to Galatea in the bay below. Her only answers were words of
scorn and mockery. See Andrew Lang's translation of Theocritus, Idyl
VI, for further account.

=70-76. Abbey towers.= That is, Westminster Abbey, a mile's distance
to the south and east of Hyde Park. The abbey is built in the form of
a cross, the body or lower part of which is termed the nave (l. 73).
The upper portion is occupied by the choir, the anthems of which, with
their organ accompaniments, are alluded to in ll. 74-77.

=89-106. Miserere Domine!= _Lord, have mercy!_ These words are from
the service of the Church of England. The meaning in these lines is
that Beethoven, in his masterpieces, has transferred the thoughts and
feelings, above inadequately expressed in words, into another and more
emotional tongue; that is, music.

=107. Ride.= A famous driveway in Hyde Park, commonly called Rotten

=119. vacant.= Thoughtless; not occupied with study or reflection.

"For oft, when on my couch I lie
In _vacant_ or in pensive mood."
--WORDSWORTH'S _Lines to the Daffodils_, ll. 19-20.

=124. hies.= Hastens (poetical).
=130. painter and musician too!= Arnold held poetry to be equal to
painting and music combined.

=140. movement.= Activities. Explained in the following lines.

=163-210.= Note carefully the argument used to prove that poetry
interprets life more accurately and effectively than any of the other
arts. =Homer=, the most renowned of all Greek poets. The time in which
he lived is not definitely known. =Shakespeare= (1504-1616).

Give the setting of the story. What was the topic of conversation?
What stand did the poet's friend take regarding poetry? Why turn to
Greece in considering the arts? What limitations of the painter's art
are pointed out by the poet? What is his attitude toward music?
What finally is "the poet's sphere," l. 127? Wherein then is poetry
superior to the other arts? Does the author prove his point by his
poem? Discuss the poem as to movement, diction, etc.


No poet, not even Wordsworth, was more passionately fond of nature
than Arnold. Note his attitude in the poem.

=1. One lesson.= What lesson?

=4.= Discuss the use of the adjective "loud"; also "noisier," l. 7.

Note the essential elements of sonnet structure in metre, rhyme
formula, and number of lines. See the introduction to Sharp's _Sonnets
of this Century_.


Despite this tribute, Arnold considered Homer Shakespeare's equal, if
not his superior. What do Shakespeare's smile and silence imply on
his part? Explain in full the figure used. Do you consider it apt? Why
"Better so," l. 10? What is there in the poem that helps you to see
wherein lay Shakespeare's power to interpret life? Select the lines
which most impress you, and tell why. [194]


This sonnet was written in 1852, when the poet was in his thirtieth

=5. joy.= Be glad. =heats.= Passions.

=6. even clime.= That is, in the less emotional years of maturity.

=12. hurrying fever.= See note, l. 6.


=1. That son of Italy.= Giacopone di Todi.

=2. Dante= (1265-1321). Best known as the author of _The Divine

=3. In his light youth.= Explain.

=11. sackcloth.= Symbolic of mourning or mortification of the flesh.

Tell the story of the poem and make the application. Explain Arnold's
idea of poetry as set forth in ll. 12-14.


=3. Marcus Aurelius= (121-180 A.D.), commonly called "the philosopher."
A celebrated Roman emperor, prominent among the ethical teachers
of his time. Arnold himself has been aptly styled by Sharp an
"impassioned Marcus Aurelius, wrought by poetic vision and emotion to
poetic music." [195]

=6. foolish.= In the sense of unreasonable. =ken.= The Scotch word
meaning sight.

=7. rates.= Berates, reproves.

Give the poem's theme. What is implied by the word "even," l. 1? Does
the author agree with the implication? Why so? Discuss l. 5 as to its
meaning. Interpret the expressions "ill-school'd spirit," l. 11, and
"Some nobler, ampler stage of life," l. 12. Where finally are the aids
to a nobler life to be found? Do you agree with this philosophy of


=2. Bethnal Green.= An eastern suburb of London.

=4. Spitalfields.= A part of northeast London, comprising the parishes
of Bethnal Green and Christchurch.

Image the scene. What is the purpose of the first four lines? Discuss
l. 6. What is the import of the preacher's response? What are the
poet's conclusions drawn in ll. 9-14?


=1. Belgrave Square.= An important square in the western part of

Tell the situation and the story of the poem. Why did the woman
solicit aid from the laboring men? Why not from the wealthy? Explain
ll. 9-11. What is the poet's final conclusion?


APRIL, 1850

Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount, in the Lake, District, April 23, 1850.
These verses, dedicated to his memory, are among Arnold's best-known
lines. For adequacy of meaning and charm of expression, they are
almost unsurpassed; they also contain some of the poet's soundest
poetical criticism. The poem was first published in _Fraser's
Magazine_ for June, 1850, and bore the date of April 27.

=1. Goethe in Weimar sleeps.= The tomb of Goethe, the celebrated
German author (see note, l. 29, _Epilogue to Lessing's Laocooen_), is
in Weimar, the capital of the Grand-duchy of Saxe-Weimar. Weimar is
noted as the literary centre of Germany, and for this reason is styled
the German Athens.

=2. Byron.= George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), a celebrated English poet
of the French Revolutionary period, died at Missolonghi, Greece, where
he had gone to help the Greeks in their struggle to throw off the
Turkish yoke. He was preeminently a poet of passion, and, as such,
exerted a marked influence on the literature of his day. His petulant,
bitter rebellion against all law has become proverbial; hence the
term "Byronic." The =Titans= (l. 14) were a race of giants who warred
against the gods. The aptness of the comparison made here is at once
evident. In Arnold's sonnet, _A Picture at Newstead_, also occur these

"'Twas not the thought of Byron, of his cry
Stormily sweet, his Titan-agony."

=17. iron age.= In classic mythology, "The last of the four great ages
of the world described by Hesiod. Ovid, etc. It was supposed to
be characterized by abounding oppression, vice, and misery."--
_International Dictionary_. The preceding ages, in order, were the
age of gold, the age of silver, and the age of brass. [197]

=34-39=. Eurydice, wife of Orpheus, was stung to death by a serpent,
and passed to the realm of the dead--Hades. Thither Orpheus descended,
and, by the charm of his lyre and song, persuaded Pluto to restore her
to life. This he consented to do on condition that she walk behind
her husband, who was not to look at her until they had arrived in
the upper world. Orpheus, however, looked back, thus violating the
conditions, and Eurydice was caught back into the infernal regions.

"The ferry guard
Now would not row him o'er the lake again."

=72. Rotha=. A small stream of the English Lake Region, on which Rydal
Mount, Wordsworth's burial-place, is situated.


"There was very lately a lad in the University of Oxford who was by
his poverty forced to leave his studies there and at last to join
himself to a company of vagabond gipsies. Among these extravagant
people, by the insinuating subtilty of his carriage, he quickly got
so much of their love and esteem that they discovered to him their
mystery. After he had been a pretty while exercised in the trade,
there chanced to ride by a couple of scholars who had formerly been of
his acquaintance. They quickly spied out their old friend among the
gipsies, and he gave them an account of the necessity which drove him
to that kind of life, and told them that the people he went with
were not such impostors as they were taken for, but that they had a
traditional kind of learning among them, and could do wonders by the
power of imagination, their fancy binding that of others; that himself
had learned much of their art, and when he had compassed the whole
secret, he intended, he said, to leave their company, and give the
world an account of what he had learned."--GLANVIL'S _Vanity of
Dogmatizing_, 1661. [198]

=2. wattled cotes=. Sheepfolds. Probably suggested by Milton's
_Comus_, l. 344:--

"The folded flocks, penned in their _wattled cotes_."

=9. Cross and recross=. Infinitives depending upon seen, l. 8.

=13. cruse=. Commonly associated in thought with the story of Elijah
and the widow of Zarephath, 1 _Kings_, xvii: 8-16.

=19. corn=. See note, l. 156, _Sohrab and Rustum_.

=30. Oxford towers=. "Oxford, the county town of Oxfordshire and the
seat of one of the most ancient and celebrated universities in Europe,
is situated amid picturesque environs at the confluence of the
Cherwell and the Thames (often called in its upper course the Isis).
It is surrounded by an amphitheatre of gentle hills, the tops of
which command a fine view of the city with its domes and
towers."--BAEDEKER'S _Great Britain_, in his _Handbooks for
Travellers_. In writing of Oxford, Hawthorne says: "The world, surely,
has not another place like Oxford; it is a despair to see such a place
and ever to leave it, for it would take a lifetime, and more than one,
to comprehend and enjoy it satisfactorily." See also note, l. 19,

=31. Glanvil's book=. See introductory note to poem.

=42. erst=. Formerly. (Obsolete except in poetry.)

=44-50=. See introductory note to poem.

=57. Hurst=. Cumner (or Cumnor) Hurst, one of the Cumnor range of
hills, some two or three miles south and west of Oxford, is crowned
with a clump of cedars; hence the name "Hurst."

=58. Berkshire moors=. Berkshire is the county, or shire, on the south
of Oxford County.

=69. green-muffled=. Explain the epithet.
=74. Bablockhithe=. A small town some four miles west and a little
south of Oxford, on the Thames, which at that point is a mere stream
crossed by a ferry. This and numerous other points of interest in the
vicinity of Oxford are frequented by Oxford students; hence Arnold's
familiarity with them and his reference to them in this poem and
_Thyrsis_. See any atlas.

=79. Wychwood bowers=. That is, Wychwood Forest, ten or twelve miles
north and west of Oxford. See note, l. 74.

=83. To dance around the Fyfield elm in May=. Fyfield, a parish in
Berkshire, about six miles southwest of Oxford. The reference here is
to the "May-day" celebrations formerly widely observed in Europe, but
now nearly disappeared. The chief features of the celebration in Great
Britain are the gathering of hawthorn blossoms and other flowers, the
crowning of the May-queen and dancing around the May-pole--here the
Fyfield elm. See note, l. 74. Read Tennyson's poem, _The Queen o' the

=91. Godstow Bridge=. Some two miles up the Thames from Oxford.

=95. lasher pass=. An English term corresponding to our _mill race_.
The _lasher_ is the dam, or weir.

=98. outlandish=. Analyze the word and determine meaning.

=111. Bagley Wood=. South and west of Oxford, beyond South Hinksey.
See note, l. 125; also note, l. 74.

=114. tagg'd=. That is, marked; the leaves being colored by frost.

=115. Thessaly=. The northeastern district of ancient Greece,
celebrated in mythology. Here a forest ground near Bagley Wood. See
note, l. 111; also note, l. 74.

=125. Hinksey=. North and South Hinksey are unimportant villages a
short distance out from Oxford in the Cumnor Hills. See note, l. 74.
=129. Christ Church hall=. The largest and most fashionable college
in Oxford; founded by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525. The chapel of Christ
Church is also the cathedral of the diocese of Oxford.

=130. grange=. Consult dictionary.

=133. Glanvil=. Joseph Glanvil, 1636-1680. A noted English divine and
philosopher; author of a defence of belief in witchcraft.

=140. red-fruited yew tree=. The yew tree is very common in English
burial-grounds. It grows slowly, lives long, has a dark, thick
foliage, and yields a red berry. See Wordsworth's celebrated poem,
_The Yew-Tree_.

=141-170=. "This note of lassitude is struck often--perhaps too
often--in Arnold's poems."--DU PONT SYLE. See also _The Stanzas in
Memory of the Author of Obermann_. For the author's less despondent
mood, see his _Rugby Chapel_, included in this volume.

=147. teen=. Grief, sorrow; from the old English _teona_, meaning

=149. the just-pausing Genius=. Does the author here allude to death?

=151. Thou hast not lived= (so). That is, as described in preceding

=152. Thou hadst one aim=, etc. What was the Scholar-Gipsy's _one_
motive in life?

=157-160. But thou possessest an immortal lot=, etc. Explain.

=165. Which much to have tried=, etc. Which many attempts and many
failures bring.

=180. do not we ... await it too=? That is, the spark from heaven. See
l. 171.

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