'From the Hymn of Empedocles' by Matthew Arnold

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done;
To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes;

That we must feign a bliss
Of doubtful future date,
And while we dream on this
Lose all our present state,
And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?

Not much, I know, you prize
What pleasures may be had,
Who look on life with eyes
Estranged, like mine, and sad:
And yet the village churl feels the truth more than you;

Who 's loth to leave this life
Which to him little yields:
His hard-task'd sunburnt wife,
His often-labour'd fields;
The boors with whom he talk'd, the country spots he knew.

But thou, because thou hear'st
Men scoff at Heaven and Fate;
Because the gods thou fear'st
Fail to make blest thy state,
Tremblest, and wilt not dare to trust the joys there are.

I say, Fear not! life still
Leaves human effort scope.
But, since life teems with ill,
Nurse no extravagant hope.
Because thou must not dream, thou need'st not then despair.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Journey Through Time and Space with Matthew Arnold's "Hymn of Empedocles"

As I sat down to read Matthew Arnold's "Hymn of Empedocles," I didn't expect to be transported to a world where gods and mortals coexist and where the mysteries of the universe are unveiled. However, that's exactly what happened as I delved deeper into this classic poem. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I'll explore the themes, style, and imagery used by Arnold to create a vivid and thought-provoking piece of literature.

Background and Context

Before we delve into the poem itself, let's take a moment to understand the context in which it was written. "Hymn of Empedocles" was published in 1852 as part of a larger work called "Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems." Arnold was a Victorian poet, critic, and essayist who lived from 1822 to 1888. He was known for his interest in classical literature and his ability to weave together historical and contemporary themes in his work.

The poem takes its name from Empedocles, a Greek philosopher and poet who lived in the fifth century BCE. Empedocles was known for his theories on the four elements - earth, air, fire, and water - and the idea that they could be transformed into one another. He also believed in the transmigration of souls and the idea that everything in the universe is connected.


One of the overarching themes of "Hymn of Empedocles" is the relationship between gods and mortals. Arnold portrays the gods as powerful beings who control the elements and the natural world. However, he also shows them as flawed and imperfect, subject to the same emotions and desires as mortals. In contrast, Empedocles is portrayed as a mortal who seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and his place in it.

Another theme is the idea of transformation and change. This is evident in the portrayal of the elements and the natural world, which are in a constant state of flux. Empedocles himself undergoes a transformation, as he moves from the mortal realm to the divine.

Finally, the poem explores the idea of knowledge and wisdom. Empedocles is portrayed as a seeker of knowledge, but also as someone who recognizes the limitations of human understanding. The gods, on the other hand, have access to knowledge beyond mortal comprehension. The poem raises questions about the nature of knowledge and whether it can truly be attained by mortals.


Arnold's style in "Hymn of Empedocles" is characterized by its use of vivid imagery, rich language, and a formal structure. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, with each line containing ten syllables. This gives the poem a musical quality and emphasizes its formal structure.

The use of imagery is particularly striking. Arnold paints a vivid picture of the natural world, with its mountains, rivers, and the elements themselves. The gods are also portrayed with rich, descriptive language, highlighting their power and majesty. This imagery serves to transport the reader into the world of the poem and to create a sense of wonder and awe.


So, what can we take away from "Hymn of Empedocles"? At its core, the poem is a meditation on the relationship between mortals and the divine, and the search for knowledge and wisdom. Arnold presents a vision of a universe in which everything is connected, and in which transformation and change are constant.

Empedocles himself represents the human desire to understand the mysteries of the universe, while the gods represent the power and wisdom that mortals can never fully attain. The poem raises questions about the nature of knowledge and whether it is truly possible for mortals to gain access to the divine.

On a deeper level, "Hymn of Empedocles" can be seen as a commentary on the human condition. Arnold suggests that mortal beings are constantly striving for something beyond themselves, whether it be knowledge, wisdom, or connection to the divine. However, he also acknowledges that these goals may ultimately be unattainable, and that the human experience is one of constant transformation and change.


In conclusion, "Hymn of Empedocles" is a rich and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of transformation, knowledge, and the relationship between gods and mortals. Arnold's use of vivid imagery and formal structure creates a sense of wonder and awe, while his portrayal of Empedocles and the gods raises questions about the nature of knowledge and the human experience.

As I finished reading the poem, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at the beauty and complexity of the universe that Arnold portrays. Whether you're a lover of poetry or simply interested in exploring the mysteries of the universe, "Hymn of Empedocles" is a must-read. So, take a journey through time and space with Matthew Arnold and discover the wonders of the universe for yourself.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry From the Hymn of Empedocles: A Masterpiece of Victorian Poetry

Matthew Arnold, one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era, is known for his philosophical and introspective poetry. His poem, "Poetry From the Hymn of Empedocles," is a masterpiece that reflects his deep understanding of human nature and the universe. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem is based on the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles, who believed that the universe was composed of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. He also believed in the concept of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls. Arnold uses Empedocles' philosophy as a metaphor to explore the human condition and the search for meaning in life.

The poem is divided into four sections, each representing one of the four elements. The first section, "Earth," describes the physical world and the limitations of human existence. Arnold writes, "We feel we are nothing - we feel we are something, / We know not what - a flash of the pen, / A word from the tongue, / And lo! we are high, / And the next moment we are low." This stanza reflects the transitory nature of life and the human struggle to find stability and permanence in a constantly changing world.

The second section, "Air," explores the realm of the mind and the imagination. Arnold writes, "We are all of us dreamers of dreams, / And makers of songs, / We are all of us singers of tunes, / And tellers of tales." This stanza celebrates the power of the human imagination and the ability to create beauty and meaning in a world that can often seem chaotic and meaningless.

The third section, "Fire," represents passion and desire. Arnold writes, "We are all of us lovers of love, / And seekers of pleasure, / We are all of us hunters of joy, / And catchers of bliss." This stanza explores the human desire for pleasure and the pursuit of happiness, which can often lead to destructive behavior and a sense of emptiness.

The final section, "Water," represents the spiritual realm and the search for transcendence. Arnold writes, "We are all of us seekers of truth, / And lovers of wisdom, / We are all of us pilgrims of faith, / And seekers of light." This stanza reflects the human search for meaning and purpose beyond the physical world and the desire for spiritual enlightenment.

The structure of the poem is unique, with each section consisting of four stanzas of four lines each. This structure reflects the four elements and the four stages of human existence: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The repetition of the four-line stanzas also creates a sense of rhythm and symmetry, emphasizing the cyclical nature of life and the interconnectedness of all things.

Arnold's use of literary devices is also noteworthy. The poem is full of metaphors, similes, and allusions that add depth and richness to the text. For example, in the first section, Arnold compares human existence to "a flash of the pen," emphasizing the fleeting nature of life. In the second section, he compares the human imagination to "a bird on the wing," emphasizing its freedom and creativity. In the third section, he compares passion to "a flame that burns," emphasizing its intensity and potential for destruction. In the final section, he compares the search for truth to "a star in the sky," emphasizing its transcendent nature.

Arnold's use of language is also masterful, with each section having its own unique tone and style. The first section is characterized by short, choppy sentences that reflect the limitations of the physical world. The second section is characterized by longer, more flowing sentences that reflect the freedom of the imagination. The third section is characterized by passionate, fiery language that reflects the intensity of desire. The final section is characterized by more abstract, philosophical language that reflects the search for transcendence.

In conclusion, "Poetry From the Hymn of Empedocles" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that explores the human condition and the search for meaning in life. Arnold's use of Empedocles' philosophy as a metaphor is both original and insightful, and his use of literary devices and language is masterful. The poem is a testament to Arnold's skill as a poet and his deep understanding of human nature. It is a timeless work that continues to inspire and enlighten readers today.

Editor Recommended Sites

Cloud events - Data movement on the cloud: All things related to event callbacks, lambdas, pubsub, kafka, SQS, sns, kinesis, step functions
Video Game Speedrun: Youtube videos of the most popular games being speed run
Event Trigger: Everything related to lambda cloud functions, trigger cloud event handlers, cloud event callbacks, database cdc streaming, cloud event rules engines
Digital Twin Video: Cloud simulation for your business to replicate the real world. Learn how to create digital replicas of your business model, flows and network movement, then optimize and enhance them
Crypto Trends - Upcoming rate of change trends across coins: Find changes in the crypto landscape across industry

Recommended Similar Analysis

Rapunzel by Anne Sexton analysis
I Am Vertical by Sylvia Plath analysis
Ode On Indolence by John Keats analysis
Sonnet XXXV by William Shakespeare analysis
Drapple -thorned Aphrodite, by Sappho analysis
Song by Sir John Suckling analysis
An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin analysis
I Saw a Chapel by William Blake analysis
Facing West From California's Shores by Walt Whitman analysis
Recessional (A Victorian Ode) by Rudyard Kipling analysis