"This And That Way Swings The Flux Of Mortal Things"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This long poem, written in honor of the poet's dear friend the Dean of Westminster, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, recounts the promises of the past and the despair of the religious world of the nineteenth century. According to legend, the famous church, built early in the seventh century, was consecrated by St. Peter: a fisherman was asked to row a stranger across the river and later discovered that his passenger was the Apostle who came from heaven to consecrate the church built in his honor. Dean Stanley seemed in life to fulfill the promise of this consecration, but however pure he seemed, his life was short, and before he could reach the peak to which he seemed destined, he died. In this way, he was like the Eleusinian prince Demopheön, whom the goddess wanted to make immortal but who lived and died as a man because his parents disturbed the miracle. Still, Arnold says, the promise may be eventually fulfilled because the course of history leads through its alternating terms toward greater and greater light; in fact, if Dean Stanley had lived longer, he would probably have seen his own work thwarted as history continued on its relentless course:

For this and that way swings
The flux of mortal things,
Though moving only to one far-set goal.
What had our Arthur gain'd, to stop and see,
After light's term of cecity,
A church once large and then grown strait in soul? . . .