Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 387
Matthew Arnold's poem "Isolation. To Marguerite" is, as the title suggests, dedicated to Marguerite, who is presumably the lover of the speaker, although Marguerite is never named specifically in the poem.
The main character in the poem might then be identified as the unnamed narrator, who has been separated from his beloved, Marguerite; and yet, in all the time he has been "apart" from her, his love has grown more intense and his heart has remained "constant."
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Marguerite, the object of the speaker's affections. According to the speaker, Marguerite—to whom he now bids—did not have the same experience. In being separated from her beloved, his "faith" eventually reached a point of being unreturned. Marguerite appears to have fallen out of love with the speaker, leaving his forlorn heart alone and without the joy of having its passion reciprocated.
The speaker alludes to some other characters in the poem, taken from myth. The first of these, Luna, is the goddess of the moon; Arnold describes her as "chaste" and describes how she hung over Endymion from far above in the heavens. Luna, however, knew she was meant to be alone; as she is identified with the moon, there is no possibility for her to be truly integrated with the human world over which she watches.
The speaker, however, did not feel the same isolation as Luna when he was dedicating himself to his absent beloved. At one point, he has evidently yearned for a closeness which he felt might one day be available to him. Unfortunately, now he is condemned to a loneliness he did not expect; his heart must sustain itself, now that it cannot be twinned with Marguerite's as it had once hoped to be.
In many ways, then, Arnold's poem here utilizes a fairly typical trope of romance poetry in forming its protagonist: the forlorn lover addresses his words of yearning to a beloved who has scorned him. However, he does not seem to truly blame his beloved Marguerite for having drifted away from him. While he has indeed hoped to become one with her, he now bids her "farewell" without any apparent bad feeling; he is disappointed with his lot, but the poem seems to suggest that loneliness is always a possibility with human relationships.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support