Youth's Agitations by Matthew Arnold

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"One Thing Only Has Been Lent To Youth And Age In Common–discontent"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Thwarted in love and crossed by a father who was too dominating to allow him to develop a sense of harmony with his fellow men, Arnold was the type of person to whom nothing seemed to fulfill its promised hopes; sensitive to his inability to come to terms with himself, he continually faced a deeply rooted sense of frustration. While he was later to form a compromise with life that lifted him above his unhappiness, he underwent several years of attempting to find the contentment that he felt was denied to him; however, even as he looked, he realized that youth, as it passed, had pleasures that he had overlooked. Regardless of how unhappy he had been, he knew that youth was better than death; in this poem, for example, he clearly shows that despite how unhappy he was as a youth, he will probably be equally miserable in age.

. . .
Shall I not joy youth's heats are left behind,
And breathe more happy in an even clime?–
Ah no, for then I shall begin to find
A thousand virtues in this hated time!
Then I shall wish its agitations back,
And all its thwarting currents of desire;
Then I shall praise the heat which then I lack,
And call this hurrying fever, generous fire;
And sigh that one thing only has been lent
To youth and age in common–discontent.