Stanzas In Memory Of The Author Of "obermann" Quotes

Matthew Arnold

"What Shelter To Grow Ripe Is Ours, What Leisure To Grow Wise?"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Obermann, a philosophical romance by Etienne Pivert de Senancour (1770–1846), is a melancholy book that alternates between florid descriptions of nature and lengthy discussions about the soul. Arnold, finding that life in the mid-nineteenth century was racked by contrary desires, "one drives him to the world without,/ And one to solitude," found in this romance an escape from pain into the calm of romantic melancholy. Modern life, however, does not sanction such escape, so Arnold with classical stoicism accepts his fate. There being no escape in dreams or in the cold melancholy of romance, man has no chance to find calm or peace. As he says in other poems, Fate has chosen the age into which a man is born, and the individual who does not accept his fate will find only misery while the one who reaches the maturity of dreamless adulthood will possibly discover the peace of suffering endured.

But we, brought forth and rear'd in hours
Of change, alarm, surprise–
What shelter to grow ripe is ours?
What leisure to grow wise?
Like children bathing on the shore,
Buried a wave beneath,
The second wave succeeds, before
We have had time to breathe.
Too fast we live, too much are tried,
Wordsworth's sweet calm, or Goethe's wide
And luminous view to gain.