For Arnold, Gray remains the most representative poet of the early eighteenth-century before the Romantics. And sometimes his pathos is intolerable, as in Auld Lang Syne. According to Arnold, human nature remains consistent through various epochs and times and since the classics deal with the topics and issues highlighting and commenting on human suffering, emotions and nature. Their poetry was that of the builders of an age of prose and reason. According to him, science is incomplete without poetry art and literature. In his poetry, we do find the application of ideas to life, and also that his application is a powerful one, made by a man of vigorous understanding and master of language. The main two similarities in these two poems are choices and the love for nature.
It is much better simply to have recourse to concrete examples;to take specimens of poetry of the high, the very highest quality, and to say: The characters of a high quality of poetry are what is expressed there. Having illustrated practically his touchstone method, Arnold expresses the view that good literature will never lose its currency. Arnold is, at his best, a very good but highly derivative poet. To be in the company of Achilles, Prometheus, Clytemnestra and Dido is not always a pleasant experience. Vitet is not satisfied with seeing in it a document of some poetic value, and of very high historic and linguistic value; he sees in it a grand and beautiful work, a monument of epic genius. At moments he touches it in a profound and passionate melancholy, as in those four immortal lines taken by Byron as a motto for The Bride of Abydos, but which have in them a depth of poetic quality such as resides in no verse of Byrons own Had we never loved sae kindly, Had we never loved sae blindly, Never met, or never parted, We had neer been broken-hearted.
It is present in our minds and governs our estimate of what we read. Perhaps we find the true Burns only in his bacchanalian poetry, though occasionally his bacchanalian attitude was affected. Very effectively explained with beautiful examples. But if we conceive thus highly of the destinies of poetry, we must also set our standard for poetry high, since poetry, to be capable of fulfilling such high destinies, must be poetry of a high order of excellence. After William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, he was the greatest playwright. When Burns moralises in some of his poems it also sounds insincere, coming from a man who disregarded morality in actual life. The freedom of Chaucer is heightened, in Burns, by a fiery, reckless energy; the benignity of Chaucer deepens, in Burns, into an overwhelming sense of the pathos of things;of the pathos of human nature, the pathos, also, of non-human nature.
We enter now on times where the personal estimate of poets begins to be rife, and where the real estimate of them is not reached without difficulty. Arnold's ideal poets are Homer and Sophocles in the ancient world, Dante and Milton, and among moderns, Goethe and Wordsworth. Arnold says that both these estimates tend to be fallacious. The criticism is capable of making progress in Europe taking it towards perfection. Our religion has materialised itself in the fact, in the supposed fact; it has attached its emotion to the fact, and now the fact is failing it. This passion of reading the Greek and Roman literature is reflected in all his works.
He further believed that the free play of ideas and thoughts is made possible by criticism: critics, through their critical observations and studies supply the poets with materials for great works poetry. Arnold's concern with the admirers of Burns, however, suggests a second explanation, that Arnold is responding to the work of his old friend John Campbell Shairp. It happens in three ways- the real estimate, the historic estimate, and the personal estimate. They are in the matter and substance of the poetry, and they are in its manner and style. They are classics and none would doubt that.
He carried on, in his more sophisticated way, the Renaissance humanistic faith in good letters as the teachers of wisdom, and in the virtue of great literature, and above all, great poetry. To me and to the members of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge his name and writings are still, no doubt, familiar; but the world is fast going away from old-fashioned people of his sort, and I learnt with consternation lately from a brilliant and distinguished votary of the natural sciences, that he had never so much as heard of Bishop Wilson, and that he imagined me to have invented him. London and New York: Macmillan, 1895 Published seven years after their author's death these letters were heavily edited by Arnold's family. Douglas Bush says that the breadth and depth of Arnold's influence cannot be measured or even guessed at because, from his own time onward, so much of his thought and outlook became part of the general educated consciousness. Arnold's lack of historic sense was another major failing. This quality is possessed by poetry which deals with the tragic aspects of life.
He also has truth of substance. Even the strongest advocates of Arnold would agree that it is not always profitable for poets to draw upon the past. The tendency of certain of his writings gave offence to many readers, and the sufficiency of his equipment in scholarship for dealing with some of the subjects which he handled was called in question, but he undoubtedly exercised a stimulating influence on his time. Charlatanism is for confusing the difference between excellent and inferior, sound and unsound or only half sound, true and untrue or only half true. Arnold died in June 1901. We may over-rate the object of our interest, and can praise it in quite exaggerated language and grant it more value or importance than it really possess.
He also states that we should all understand the language of poetry as poetry shows the mirror of life. Importance of religion was submerged. What he rejects was the promise that science alone will ameliorate the human condition; the suggestion that the sciences deserve a place of greater prominence than the arts. And the application is a powerful one; made by a man of vigorous understanding, and need I say? This other poetry must not be required to resemble them; but if the touchstone-quotations are used with tact, they will enable the reader to detect the presence or absence of the highest poetic quality. People were becoming fact seekers. Therefore, society needs the State to prevent its descent into anarchy.
Arnold's philosophy is that true happiness comes from within, and that people should seek within themselves for good, while being resigned in acceptance of outward things and avoiding the pointless turmoil of the world. He has a primary school named after him in Liverpool, where he died, and secondary schools named after him in Oxford and Staines. Only in Shakespeare and Keats do we find the same kind of fluidity, though they wrote without the same liberty in the use of language. In historical estimate, historical importance often makes us rate a work as higher than it really deserves. In proportion as this high stamp of diction and movement, again, is absent from a poets style and manner, we shall find, also, that high poetic truth and seriousness are absent from his substance and matter.