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"Calm's Not Life's Crown"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Never a genuinely happy person, Arnold developed a view of life that fully accepted the harsh facts of existence and the torment of human anguish; however, he was not a man to luxuriate in misery, unwilling to make a compromise with his world. Slowly learning that the promises of youth are seldom fulfilled, he came to accept life on its own terms: man's responsibility was to seek calm, not joy. Such stoicism gradually led to a mature serenity, freed from the passions and romantic dreams of youth; this serenity enabled him to rise above his own suffering into a state of calm detachment wherein he achieved his fame as a man who had found the compromise with life that preserves sanity without despair. This quotation comes from a passage in which he makes one of the clearest statements of his view of life:

Youth dreams a bliss on this side death.
It dreams a rest, if not more deep,
More grateful than this marble sleep;
It hears a voice within it tell:
Calm's not life's crown, though calm is well.
'Tis all perhaps which man acquires,
But 'tis not what our youth desires.