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What is the main theme of Matthew Arnold's "The Future"?  What is the poem...

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jugalots | Student, College Freshman

Posted December 9, 2008 at 11:37 PM via web

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What is the main theme of Matthew Arnold's "The Future"?  What is the poem about?

I am doing an essay on this poem which has to be split into two: half of essay is close reading of the poem and the other half has to relate to the context and how through the form, style and so forth Victorian ideas and contexts are displayed.  I cannot find anything on it anywhere, and i also do not really understand the poem.

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 10, 2008 at 1:36 AM (Answer #1)

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This poem has a theme of past beauty on the earth being slowly crowded out by modern life, cities, and civilization.  It also has a theme of the temporary sphere that man inhabits; while we are here on earth, what we see is what we are and think.  We can't imagine the glory of the earth at previous times:  "Only the tract where he sails/ He wots of; only the thoughts,/ Raised by the objects he passes, are his."  He tells us that we cannot imagine what Moses thought as "he lay in the night by his flock/On the starlit Arabian waste".  The first part of the poem is full of beautiful imagery of the earth as it must  have been before, and how we cannot comprehend it.

Then, he seems to bemoan crowding civiliation: "Gone is the calm of its earlier shore./ Border'd by cities and hoarse/With a thousand cries is its stream."  He says that we mourn the old beauty, say it is too crowded, the sun is too hot, that peace has fled.  He optimistically concludes by indicating that the earth and mankind has, "if not the calm/Of its early mountainous shore,/Yet a solemn peace of its own".

I hope that helps you understand it a bit better.  For commentary, criticism, analysis, and Victorian references, see the links below.

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