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Saturday, 20 October 2018

Make a critical comment on Arnold's view of poetry as "criticism of life".?

Matthew Arnold is a poet and a critic in the Victorian Period. He has a very high conception of poetry. He is aware of the nature, function and character of poetry. He considers poetry as a criticism of life in his famous critical piece, " The Study of Poetry ". He believes that poetry is an overall assessment of human life. It analyses human life and makes a clear-cut commentary on human life. It is also an application of various ideas to life. Poetry gives different ideas which are applicable to human life. It seeks the essence and authenticity of human life. It also activates a variety of ideas in human life. This observation of Arnold has given rise to a number of debates in the mind of the readers.
poetry as a criticism of life

According to Arnold, poetry is a criticism of life. It is also an application of ideas to life. It blends many thoughts with human life. The more powerful the application of ideas, the greater will be the effect. The effect of poetry is related to the strength of the application. Arnold means that poetry is an interpretation of life as the poet experiences it and knows it. The poet pours his knowledge and experiences in his poetry. As a result, poetry becomes the playground of different ideas. It is also the subject to the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. Poetic truth and poetic beauty administer the essence of poetry. These laws are based on the poet's treatment of life. High seriousness is a very important element of poetry. The quality of high seriousness comes out from the sincere  feelings of the poet which he feels for his subject. High seriousness is to be found in the poetry of Dante, Homer and Milton. It makes their poetry powerful. The sincerity of the poet comes from his soul. This sincerity gives birth to high seriousness.

A poet generally applies different ideas to life and this application is called poetry. Powerful application of ideas to life becomes effective when it is regulated by poetic truth and poetic beauty. Poetic truth and poetic beauty must govern it. They create high seriousness which is the basic essence of any authentic poetry. So the powerful application of ideas to life should be governed by poetic truth and poetic beauty. When poetic truth and poetic beauty create high seriousness, we get perfect poetry with its help. So we get here a normal equation that life related ideas are the raw materials of poetry. These raw materials should be applied to life under the influence of poetic truth and poetic beauty. High seriousness will come out for the catalectic influence of poetic truth and poetic beauty. It is the chief aim of poetry.

Arnold also asserts that poetry has something moral about it. The treatment of moral ideas in poetry does not mean the writing of moralistic poems. It means a deep and noble application of ideas to life. We can get a moral idea by answering the very question, "how to live?" He declares that 'moral' should not be interpreted in a narrow sense to mean a code of behaviour. We do not read poetry to be conceived of the poet's idea. We should appreciate his way of thinking because it might stimulate us. 

Arnold gives much emphasis on the permanent position of poetry with regards to humanity. He declares that poetry will soon take the place of religion and philosophy to console and sustain distracted humanity. He believes that poetry has a lot of things to do. According to him, the best poetry actually supplies what we actually need. It is the source of ideal bliss.

The best poetry helps human beings in many ways. At first, the best poetry constructs our nature and it is closely related to the formation of our morality. It is an agent of moral perfection. The best poetry is helpful for mankind in another aspect. It actually maintains and continues the course of human life. The best poetry sustains us. It helps us lead carefree and secured life. On the other hand, the best poetry is the best source of enjoyment. It delights us because it fills our hearts with merriment. The best poetry is not a rigid thing. It is really pleasurable. So the best poetry is helpful for us in many ways. It has a great healing effect and it makes the course of our life easy and beautiful. It also produces the spirit of our soul. For this reason Arnold believes that the best poetry is the best friend of mankind.

To sum up, we may say that Matthew Arnold has expressed his views on the nature, function and character of poetry in his thoughtful critical piece, "The Study of Poetry". Like a classicist, he tries to formulate poetry as his own. He seems to rightly declare that poetry is a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for that criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. In his own poems, he has tried to employ this theory. His " Dover Beach" and "The Scholar Gipsy" criticise the Victorian way of life. They convey his ideas to life. So Arnold ventures to say that poetry is an application of ideas to life. But he is very rigid in his theory of poetry.

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