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Featured Poem: Worldly Place by Matthew Arnold

November 21, 2016

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This week we feature a poem from Matthew Arnold called Worldly Place.

Born on Christmas Eve in 1822, Matthew Arnold was a poet and cultural critic who also worked as an inspector of schools. He was considered a ‘sage writer’, one who chastises and instructs the reader on contemporary social issues.

Having published various collections, Arnold was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1857 and was the first in this position to deliver his lectures in English rather than Latin. He published various lectures and essays throughout his career on subjects on education, democracy, religion and literary figures of the time. Between 1883 and 1884 he toured America and Canada delivering lectures and was elected Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Arnold died suddenly in 1888 of heart failure while running to meet a tram that would have taken him to the Liverpool Landing Stage to meet his daughter who was visiting from America.

Worldly Place

Even in a palace, life may be led well!
So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,
Marcus Aurelius. But the stifling den
Of common life, where, crowded up pell-mell,
Our freedom for a little bread we sell,
And drudge under some foolish master’s ken
Who rates us if we peer outside our pen—
Match’d with a palace, is not this a hell?
Even in a palace! On his truth sincere,
Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came;
And when my ill-school’d spirit is aflame
Some nobler, ampler stage of life to win,
I’ll stop, and say: “There were no succour here!
The aids to noble life are all within.”
Matthew Arnold

 

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