Resignation "Not Deep The Poet Sees, But Wide"
by Matthew Arnold

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"Not Deep The Poet Sees, But Wide"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this long apologia to "Fausta," Arnold's poetic name for his sister Jane, the poet describes his view of life and explains why he has chosen to write poetry. All men, he says, set goals that they hope to gain before they gain peace; with some men these goals are exciting adventures, but "milder natures, and more free" have resigned themselves to their struggles with passions and time that passes so quickly that they cannot reach their little goals. Ten years have passed since their father used to take them from the noisy town into the quiet countryside, and when they return there, they find that nature has not changed while they have. The unhappiness caused by this change, a separation from nature and from joyful youth, is explained by the gipsies, who wander here and there without purpose but as chance directs; the gipsies' way of life is actually the life of all mankind. The poet is the man who realizes this fact and from it learns that the "secret is not joy, but peace"; however, Fausta disagrees with the poet's idea that nature lasts but man and art perish. The quotation comes from her supposed belief in what the poet should be, an opinion that Arnold later rejects in favor of his central belief that the poet is the completely detached stoic who realizes the pain of life and its lack of solution.

"Those gipsies," so your thoughts I scan,
"Are less, the poet more, than man.
They feel not, though they move and see;
Deeper the poet feels; but he
Breathes, when he will, immortal air. . . .
He leaves his kind, o'er leaps their pen,
And flees the common life of men.
He escapes thence, but we abide–
Not deep the poet sees, but wide."