Self-dependence "Who Finds Himself, Loses His Misery"
by Matthew Arnold

Start Your Free Trial

Download Self-dependence Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"Who Finds Himself, Loses His Misery"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Reared by his liberal father and taught as a young man that his responsibility was to ask questions concerning the fundamentals of human life, Arnold developed a keenly analytical mind; however, his inability to find answers that were certain led increasingly to personal sorrow.

In his late twenties he had found that his passionate search for certainty seemed to turn on itself so that he was unable to find intellectual or emotional rest. Living in an age of extreme intellectual probing in such areas as politics, religion, and science, Arnold represented the confusion and unhappiness of many of his thinking contemporaries; the diversity of opinion on even crucial questions was making men rely more on themselves than on others. In this poem he looks at the stars and asks them how he can regain the neutral calm of early childhood that they seem to possess; a voice comes from the night to answer him:
"Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.
"Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them
Yield them love, amusement, sympathy."
. . .
O air-born voice! long since, severely clear,
A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:
"Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,
Who finds himself, loses his misery!"