'Forsaken Merman, The' by Matthew Arnold
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Come, dear children, let us away;
Down and away below!
Now my brothers call from the bay,
Now the great winds shoreward blow,
Now the salt tides seaward flow;
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray.
Children dear, let us away!
This way, this way!
Call her once before you go--
Call once yet!
In a voice that she will know:
Children's voices should be dear
(Call once more) to a mother's ear;
Children's voices, wild with pain--
Surely she will come again!
Call her once and come away;
This way, this way!
"Mother dear, we cannot stay!
The wild white horses foam and fret."
Come, dear children, come away down;
Call no more!
One last look at the white-wall'd town
And the little grey church on the windy shore,
Then come down!
She will not come though you call all day;
Come away, come away!
Children dear, was it yesterday
We heard the sweet bells over the bay?
In the caverns where we lay,
Through the surf and through the swell,
The far-off sound of a silver bell?
Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep,
Where the winds are all asleep;
Where the spent lights quiver and gleam,
Where the salt weed sways in the stream,
Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round,
Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground;
Where the sea-snakes coil and twine,
Dry their mail and bask in the brine;
Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with unshut eye,
Round the world for ever and aye?
When did music come this way?
Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, was it yesterday
(Call yet once) that she went away?
Once she sate with you and me,
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,
And the youngest sate on her knee.
She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.
She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea;
She said: "I must go, to} my kinsfolk pray
In the little grey church on the shore to-day.
'T#will be Easter-time in the world--ah me!
And I lose my poor soul, Merman! here with thee."
I said: "Go up, dear heart, through the waves;
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves!"
She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.
Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, were we long alone?
"The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan;
Long prayers," I said, "in the world they say;
Come!" I said; and we rose through the surf in the bay.
We went up the beach, by the sandy down
Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall'd town;
Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still,
To the little grey church on the windy hill.
From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers,
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.
We climb'd on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,
And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes.
She sate by the pillar; we saw her clear:
"Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here!
Dear heart," I said, "we are long alone;
The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan."
But, ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were seal'd to the holy book!
Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more!
Come away, come down, call no more!
Down, down, down!
Down to the depths of the sea!
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings: "O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy!
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well;
For the wheel where I spun,
And the blessed light of the sun!"
And so she sings her fill,
Singing most joyfully,
Till the spindle drops from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,
And over the sand at the sea;
And her eyes are set in a stare;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye,
And a heart sorrow-laden,
A long, long sigh;
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden
And the gleam of her golden hair.
Come away, away children
Come children, come down!
The hoarse wind blows coldly;
Lights shine in the town.
She will start from her slumber
When gusts shake the door;
She will hear the winds howling,
Will hear the waves roar.
We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing: "Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she!
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea."
But, children, at midnight,
When soft the winds blow,
When clear falls the moonlight,
When spring-tides are low;
When sweet airs come seaward
From heaths starr'd with broom,
And high rocks throw mildly
On the blanch'd sands a gloom;
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze, from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town;
At the church on the hill-side--
And then come back down.
Singing: "There dwells a loved one,
But cruel is she!
She left lonely for ever
The kings of the sea."
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Forsaken Merman by Matthew Arnold: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
The Forsaken Merman is a poem written by Matthew Arnold, a British poet, and cultural critic in the Victorian era. The poem is about a merman who is left alone by his wife and children, who are lured away by the enchanting world of the human beings. The poem has been widely regarded as a masterpiece of Victorian poetry and has been the subject of numerous literary criticisms and interpretations over the years. In this essay, we will explore the different themes, symbols, and stylistic devices employed by Arnold in the poem and how they contribute to its overall meaning and impact.
An Overview of the Poem
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each consisting of fourteen lines. The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the main characters - the Forsaken Merman and his wife and children. The second stanza describes the merman's grief and longing for his family, while the third stanza presents a fantastical, almost surreal, vision of the merman's underwater kingdom. The poem is written in a regular iambic tetrameter, with a rhyme scheme of ababcdcdefefgg.
One of the major themes of the poem is the conflict between the human and the supernatural worlds. The merman's wife and children are enticed by the world of the humans, with their music and their pleasures, and they are eventually lured away from the merman's kingdom. The poem can be read as a commentary on the dangers of abandoning one's own culture and traditions in pursuit of something new and exciting.
Another important theme in the poem is the idea of loss and grief. The merman is devastated by the loss of his family, and his grief is palpable in every line of the second stanza. The poem can be seen as a meditation on the nature of grief and how it affects our lives and relationships.
The poem also touches on the theme of love and sacrifice. The merman's love for his wife and children is so great that he is willing to sacrifice his own happiness for theirs. The poem can be read as a tribute to the selflessness and devotion that are the hallmarks of true love.
There are several symbols in the poem that contribute to its overall meaning and impact. Perhaps the most important of these is the sea itself. The sea is a symbol of the merman's world, and it represents the power and mystery of the natural world. The sea is also a symbol of change and transformation, as it is constantly in motion and always in a state of flux.
Another important symbol in the poem is the music of the humans. The music represents the allure of the human world, with its pleasures and its temptations. The music is a symbol of the mermaid's wife and children's attraction to the human world, and it is also a symbol of the power of art to affect our emotions and our desires.
Arnold employs several stylistic devices in the poem that contribute to its overall impact. One of the most notable of these is the use of repetition. Throughout the poem, Arnold repeats certain phrases and words, such as "Come back," "Weeping and wailing," and "Alack, and well-a-day!" These repetitions create a sense of urgency and emphasis, and they also serve to reinforce the poem's central themes and symbols.
Another important stylistic device in the poem is the use of imagery. Arnold's descriptions of the merman's underwater kingdom are vivid and evocative, and they create a sense of magic and wonder. The imagery also serves to underscore the conflict between the human and the supernatural worlds, as the merman's kingdom is portrayed as a place of beauty and mystery that is threatened by the allure of the human world.
The Forsaken Merman is a poem that is open to a wide range of interpretations. One possible interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the dangers of abandoning one's own culture and traditions in pursuit of something new and exciting. The mermaid's wife and children are lured away by the music of the humans, and they are eventually corrupted by the pleasures and temptations of the human world. The poem can be seen as a warning against the dangers of assimilation and cultural assimilation.
Another possible interpretation is that the poem is a meditation on the nature of grief and loss. The merman's grief is palpable in every line of the poem, and his longing for his wife and children is heart-wrenching. The poem can be seen as a tribute to the power of love and the sacrifices that we are willing to make for those we love.
The poem can also be interpreted as a commentary on the power of art to affect our emotions and our desires. The music of the humans is portrayed as a powerful force that can entice even the most steadfast among us. The poem can be seen as a warning against the dangers of art and entertainment, and as a testament to the power of the natural world to sustain and comfort us.
The Forsaken Merman is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores a wide range of themes and symbols. It is a testament to Arnold's skill as a poet and his ability to create memorable and evocative imagery. The poem is a timeless classic of Victorian poetry, and it continues to inspire and intrigue readers to this day. Whether read as a commentary on the dangers of assimilation, a meditation on the nature of grief and loss, or a warning against the power of art and entertainment, the Forsaken Merman remains a powerful and moving work of literature.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Forsaken Merman: A Poem of Love, Loss, and Longing
Matthew Arnold's "The Forsaken Merman" is a hauntingly beautiful poem that explores the themes of love, loss, and longing. Written in 1849, the poem tells the story of a merman who has been abandoned by his human wife and left to raise their children alone. As the merman watches his children grow up and longs for his wife's return, he reflects on the nature of love and the pain of separation.
The poem opens with a vivid description of the merman's underwater world, where "the sea is calm tonight" and "the tide is full, the moon lies fair." The merman's voice is melancholy as he sings to his children, "Come, dear children, let us away; / Down and away below!" He longs to take them to a place where they can forget their sorrow and be happy again.
As the poem progresses, we learn that the merman's wife, a human woman named Margaret, has left him and their children to return to the world above the sea. The merman is heartbroken and cannot understand why Margaret would leave him and their children behind. He sings, "We will not wander more; / We will not be parted; / Take heart of grace, my own dear son!" The merman's love for Margaret is deep and true, and he cannot bear the thought of living without her.
Arnold's use of language in this poem is particularly striking. He employs a variety of poetic devices, including alliteration, repetition, and imagery, to create a vivid and evocative picture of the merman's world. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, Arnold uses alliteration to create a sense of calm and tranquility: "The sea is calm tonight, / The tide is full, the moon lies fair / Upon the straits; on the French coast the light / Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, / Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay."
Arnold also uses repetition to emphasize the merman's longing for his wife. Throughout the poem, the merman repeats the phrase "Margaret, Margaret!" as if calling out to her across the sea. This repetition creates a sense of urgency and desperation, as if the merman is trying to summon his wife back to him.
The imagery in the poem is also powerful and evocative. Arnold describes the merman's underwater world in vivid detail, painting a picture of a magical and mysterious place. He writes, "We'll go to the grottos where the echo is dumb, / And swim in the caverns of coral and pearl, / And launch our little boat again." This imagery creates a sense of wonder and enchantment, as if the merman's world is a place of endless possibility and beauty.
As the poem draws to a close, the merman's longing for his wife becomes even more intense. He sings, "Come back to your little ones, Margaret, come!" He cannot bear the thought of living without her, and he longs for her to return to him and their children.
In the end, however, Margaret does not return. The merman is left alone with his children, and the poem ends on a note of sadness and longing. Arnold writes, "He heard her tears, and they made sweet sound / Down the gulfs of the salt, deep, deep, profound; / Till into the bosom of the sorrowful seas / They flowed like a mournful melody, / And the mermaid's song still floated on / To the rhythm of the moon they drifted on, / Singing in sadness, and singing in pain, / And the cruel ocean answered back again."
"The Forsaken Merman" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the depths of love and loss. Arnold's use of language and imagery creates a vivid and evocative picture of the merman's world, and his exploration of the themes of love and separation is both poignant and heartbreaking. This poem is a true masterpiece of English literature, and it continues to resonate with readers today.
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