To A Republican Friend "The Mellow Glory Of The Attic Stage"

Matthew Arnold

"The Mellow Glory Of The Attic Stage"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: When asked by a friend how he was able to preserve his mental stability in an age of doubt and uncertainty, Arnold replied that his familiarity with classical literature had taught him that man's suffering was never-ending and that from misery men may learn to be wise. Indebted throughout his life to the classical view of joy through tragedy, Arnold cultivated a stoic endurance that enabled him to transcend the clashes of opinion that had grown frenzied and loud by the middle of the nineteenth century. Through his stoicism he became a detached critic of his society and found that tragic joy was possible even in a dreary and bleak age. Of all the classical writers, Sophocles (496–406 B.C.) was the one he most often turned to. Born near Colonus and writing for the Attic or Athenian stage, Sophocles wrote with brilliant serenity of the suffering of man and the wisdom that grows from it; in his play Oedipus at Colonus, for example, he portrays the old blind king who has risen above the common pursuits of life to the wisdom of the prophet who knows the meaning of endured suffering.

. . . be his
My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul,
From first youth tested up to extreme old age,
Business could not make dull, nor passion wild;
Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole;
The mellow glory of the Attic stage,
Singer of sweet Colonus, and its child.