'Immortality' by Matthew Arnold

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

Foil'd by our fellow-men, depress'd, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And, Patience! in another life, we say
The world shall be thrust down, and we up-borne.

And will not, then, the immortal armies scorn
The world's poor, routed leavings? or will they,
Who fail'd under the heat of this life's day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn?

No, no! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;
And he who flagg'd not in the earthly strife,

From strength to strength advancing--only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Quest for Immortality in Matthew Arnold's Poetry

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of life? About what happens after we die? About the legacy we leave behind? These are some of the existential questions that have haunted humanity since the dawn of time, and that continue to inspire poets, philosophers, and thinkers to this day. One such poet is Matthew Arnold, whose poem "Immortality" explores the theme of eternal life and the human desire to transcend mortality.

A Brief Introduction to Matthew Arnold

Before delving into the poem itself, let us first set the stage by providing some context about the poet. Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) was a Victorian writer, critic, and educator, who is best known for his poetry and essays on culture, society, and religion. He was a member of a prominent intellectual family, which included his father, Thomas Arnold, a famous headmaster of Rugby School, and his uncle, Matthew Arnold, a renowned literary critic.

Matthew Arnold's work reflects the tensions and contradictions of his time, as Britain underwent rapid social, economic, and technological changes, while grappling with the legacy of its colonial past and the uncertainties of its future. Arnold was deeply concerned with the moral and intellectual decline of his society, which he attributed to the loss of faith in traditional values and the rise of utilitarianism and materialism.

As a poet, Arnold sought to revive the classical ideals of beauty, harmony, and order, which he believed could provide a refuge from the chaos and ugliness of modern life. He was also influenced by the Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, whose emphasis on imagination, emotion, and nature appealed to his own sensibility. However, Arnold's poetry is distinct from the Romantics in its skepticism, irony, and restraint, which reflect his critical and analytical mind.

An Overview of "Immortality"

Now, let us turn to Arnold's poem "Immortality," which was first published in 1852, as part of his collection "Poems." The poem consists of three stanzas, each composed of ten lines of iambic pentameter, and follows a strict rhyme scheme of ABBAABBAACDDEE. The language is simple and direct, with few metaphors or allusions, and the tone is somber and reflective.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing a "sea of faith" that has receded from the shore of his life, leaving him stranded in a world of doubt and despair. He laments the loss of the "divine despair" that once inspired him with the vision of eternal life, and wonders whether there is any hope of salvation beyond the grave. He then turns to the memory of his youth, when he felt a "tide of greenness" and a "joyous prime" that promised him immortality. However, he now realizes that this was a fleeting illusion, and that he is now "a nameless man / amid a crowd of men."

In the second stanza, the speaker acknowledges the inevitability of death and the futility of human striving. He compares life to a "sea of troubles" that "breaks" upon the "shores" of our existence, and leaves us with "the naked shingles of the world." He also invokes the image of the "darkness" that awaits us after death, and wonders whether there is any meaning or purpose to our brief and painful existence. He then asks a rhetorical question: "Wast thou not wont to hear my sighs and prayers?" implying that he is addressing a divine or supernatural power that seems to have abandoned him.

In the final stanza, the speaker confronts the paradox of his own identity and mortality. He acknowledges that he is "a man that is not dead," but also "a man that longed for the grave." He realizes that his desire for immortality is not only futile, but also contradicts his own nature as a mortal being. He then makes a final plea to the "still, sad music of humanity" to give him some solace and meaning in his suffering. The poem ends with the haunting image of the "dying year," which suggests that life, like the seasons, is cyclical and finite.

An Interpretation of "Immortality"

Now that we have summarized the poem, let us try to interpret its meaning and significance. At its core, "Immortality" is a meditation on the human condition and the quest for transcendence. The speaker is struggling with the loss of his faith and the realization of his mortality, which threaten to rob him of any sense of purpose or hope. He is haunted by the memory of his youth, when he believed in an eternal life and felt a sense of joy and optimism. However, he now realizes that this was a self-delusion, and that he is doomed to suffer and die like all human beings.

The central paradox of the poem is that the speaker desires both immortality and death, but knows that he cannot have both. He longs for the eternal life that he once believed in, but also feels a sense of resignation and acceptance of his fate. He is torn between his rational and emotional selves, between his skepticism and his longing for transcendence.

One way to read the poem is as a critique of the Romantic and Christian ideals of immortality, which Arnold saw as naive and unrealistic. He believed that the Romantic poets, for all their beauty and inspiration, were too sentimental and escapist, and failed to confront the harsh realities of life. He also criticized the Christian tradition, which he saw as dogmatic and oppressive, and which offered a false hope of an afterlife that could not be proven or experienced.

Instead, Arnold sought to find a more realistic and humane vision of life, one that acknowledged the pain and suffering of existence, but also recognized the value of beauty, culture, and human connection. He believed that poetry could offer a glimpse of this vision, by creating a space of contemplation and empathy that transcended the limits of individual experience.

Thus, "Immortality" can be seen as a poem that challenges us to confront the fundamental questions of existence, without resorting to easy answers or simplistic solutions. It invites us to reflect on our own mortality, and to find meaning and purpose in the midst of our limitations and struggles. It also reminds us of the power of poetry to inspire us with its beauty and its truth, and to connect us with our fellow human beings in a shared journey of life and death.


In conclusion, Matthew Arnold's poem "Immortality" is a powerful and haunting meditation on the human desire for eternal life, and the paradox of our mortality. It challenges us to confront the fundamental questions of existence, and to find meaning and purpose in the midst of our limitations and struggles. It also showcases Arnold's distinctive voice as a poet and a thinker, who sought to combine the classical ideals of harmony and beauty with the critical and analytical spirit of his time. As such, it remains a timeless and relevant work of literature, that continues to inspire and challenge us today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Immortality: A Timeless Masterpiece by Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold, a renowned English poet and cultural critic, is known for his exceptional works that reflect his deep understanding of human nature and the world around us. One of his most celebrated poems, "Poetry Immortality," is a timeless masterpiece that explores the power of poetry and its ability to transcend time and space.

In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the themes, structure, and literary devices used in "Poetry Immortality" to understand the poem's significance and relevance in today's world.


The central theme of "Poetry Immortality" is the idea that poetry has the power to transcend time and space and achieve immortality. Arnold argues that poetry is not just a form of entertainment or a means of expressing emotions but a way of capturing the essence of human experience and preserving it for future generations.

Arnold begins the poem by stating that "they say that in his prime, / Ere the pruning-knife of Time / Cut him down," referring to the Greek poet Homer. He then goes on to describe how Homer's poetry has survived the test of time and continues to inspire and move people even today.

Arnold also touches upon the idea that poetry is a form of escapism, a way of transcending the mundane and entering a world of imagination and beauty. He writes, "But for him, the herdsman of the night, / In whose bosom the far-shining stars / Nestle, and who, in refulgent light, / All the bright company of heaven can see," describing the poet's ability to see beyond the physical world and into the realm of the divine.


"Poetry Immortality" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme and structure. The poem is divided into two parts, an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines), with a volta or turn in the middle.

The octave sets up the theme and presents the problem or question that the poem seeks to answer. In "Poetry Immortality," the octave introduces the idea that poetry can achieve immortality and asks how this is possible.

The sestet provides the answer or resolution to the problem presented in the octave. In "Poetry Immortality," the sestet explains that poetry can achieve immortality because it captures the essence of human experience and transcends time and space.

Literary Devices

Arnold uses several literary devices in "Poetry Immortality" to convey his message and create a vivid image in the reader's mind.

One of the most prominent literary devices used in the poem is imagery. Arnold uses vivid and descriptive language to create a picture of the poet's ability to see beyond the physical world and into the realm of the divine. He writes, "In whose bosom the far-shining stars / Nestle, and who, in refulgent light, / All the bright company of heaven can see," painting a picture of the poet gazing up at the stars and seeing the beauty and wonder of the universe.

Arnold also uses metaphor to convey his message. He compares poetry to a "magic casement opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn," suggesting that poetry is a gateway to a world of imagination and beauty that is inaccessible to the ordinary person.

Another literary device used in the poem is allusion. Arnold references the Greek poet Homer, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of all time. By alluding to Homer, Arnold suggests that poetry has been a powerful force throughout history and will continue to be so in the future.


"Poetry Immortality" is a timeless masterpiece that explores the power of poetry and its ability to transcend time and space. Through vivid imagery, metaphor, and allusion, Arnold conveys the idea that poetry is not just a form of entertainment but a way of capturing the essence of human experience and preserving it for future generations.

The poem's central theme is as relevant today as it was when it was first written, reminding us of the enduring power of poetry and its ability to inspire and move us. As Arnold writes, "And, through the spaces of the dark / Farther than stars or suns can roam, / Live thou, and of thy fame be proud; / Godlike, a Poet, make thy heart."

Editor Recommended Sites

Crypto Gig - Crypto remote contract jobs: Find remote contract jobs for crypto smart contract development, security, audit and custody
AI Books - Machine Learning Books & Generative AI Books: The latest machine learning techniques, tips and tricks. Learn machine learning & Learn generative AI
Flutter Design: Flutter course on material design, flutter design best practice and design principles
Timeseries Data: Time series data tutorials with timescale, influx, clickhouse
Blockchain Job Board - Block Chain Custody and Security Jobs & Crypto Smart Contract Jobs: The latest Blockchain job postings

Recommended Similar Analysis

Cristina by Robert Browning analysis
The Power of the Dog by Rudyard Kipling analysis
I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman analysis
Personality by Carl Sandburg analysis
The Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats analysis
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Lee Frost analysis
Greater Love by Wilfred Owen analysis
Paradise Lost: Book 12 by John Milton analysis
Growing Old by Matthew Arnold analysis
When Earth's Last Picture Is Painted by Rudyard Kipling analysis