How does Matthew Arnold use Nature in his poems?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Arnold, in the cusp between the late Romantic and early Victorian periods (1822-1888) acknowledges Nature, but laments the distance from it that Mankind is experiencing as it moves away from the (literally) pastoral life.  A signature example is this line from "Thyrsis" (1866), a poem lamenting the loss of the pastoral life: “Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here, /But once I knew each field, each flower, each stick.”  At other times he compares the mystery of the sea in earlier times to the sea in the modern world, lamenting the loss of the sea’s mysteries--Dover Beach (1867) is his most famous example.  His homage to Shakespeare (1849) contains the image: “For the loftiest hill,/Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,/ Planting his stedfast footsteps to the sea…” Perhaps the most poignant statement is from To Marguerite: "We mortal millions live alone." So for Arnold, the loss of Man's sympathetic attachment to Nature is one price that had to be paid for “progress,” that is, for the looming Industrial Revolution.


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