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Analysis of Matthew Arnold’s Consolation


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The use of elements of poetry in poems is essential to both the writer and the reader. Elements help the writer bring out their emotions and create imagery for the intended audience. The use of various styles in poetry provides the writers with various dimensions of delivering the message and also ensures that the reader’s emotions are inclined towards the underlying message. The poem “Consolation” by Matthew Arnold is among the poems that engage the readers deeply and also needs the reader to have a more profound comprehension of stylistic devices and elements to decode the message. Through a thematic approach, Matthew brings about the context in which the poem is set (Sneyd, 2018). Additionally, since poetry is also meant to be entertaining, Matthew incorporates a well-structured rhyme scheme. The poem brings out the theme of love and time; it also incorporates stylistic devices such as personification and rhyme scheme. 

The theme of love and time is depicted in the poem, whereby Matthew describes the passage of time and two lovers enchanted with each other. The two lovers make pleas with the Goddess of Destiny that she may stop time for the two lovers to have an unending trance with each other in the present moment (Arnold, 2019). This aspect is in the 9th and 10th stanzas; 

Stanza 9: Matthew Arnold “Consolation”

Two young, fair lovers, 

Where the warm June-wind,

Fresh from the summer fields

Plays fondly round them,

Stand, tranced in joy.

Stanza 10:

With sweet, join’d voices,

And with eyes brimming:

“Ah,” they cry, “Destiny,

Prolong the present!

Time, stand still here!”

The two lovers wish to be stuck at the moment forever, but the Goddess of Destiny has a better understanding of how the universe operates and lets the hour pass the two lovers. The whole context of two people in love and wishing that time was stuck so that they could forever remain endeared to one another brings out the theme of love. Subsequently, the manner in which the idea of time passing is brought about shows the theme completely in an aspect of love and time. The Goddess ignores the two lover’s request and sees the indulgence with the two lovers as weak. The concept of time is shown to not only bring an everlasting joyous moment between the lovers, but it would have increased distress someplace else. This element is indicated in the last two lines of stanza 11; “She lengthen’d also Distress elsewhere.” In the poem, the theme of love and time is further illustrated in a context whereby, it is a force far greater and influences humanity (Arnold, 2019). The theme of time is presented as a physical entity that alters and contributes to the present and future states in our lives. Therefore, blinded our brief achievements and joys, we may wish for time extension but, consequently, be extending other’s misery. In conclusion, the theme of time is presented with the aim of showing the reader how we are incapable of understanding the more prominent perspectives of the events that surround our lives. The author, through the theme, shows how we may perceive time in a favorable and despicable manner. 

The style of personification is present, whereby the author personifies time and destiny. He gives the time title of a goddess and gives destiny the life of a power upon which people may cry upon. In stanza 10 third line, “Ah,” they cry, “Destiny.” The sequence depicts the two lovers crying to “Destiny” to grant them an everlasting moment in each other’s embrace. The presentation of “Destiny” as an entity that could grant wishes shows the personification aspect. Secondly, in the 11th Stanza third and fourth line, “Time gives his hourglass,” “Its due reversal” the element of personification is also clearly illustrated. By presenting time as a “He” by referring to “his hourglass,” time is given a human aspect and shown to have control over our destiny (Arnold, 2019). The two lovers wish for time to stand still, but time knows better and gives the hourglass a turn to continue counting downtime. In the last stanza in the first line, “Time, so complain’d of” shows another aspect of personification. People complain about time as an entity that has control over their lives but grants both happiness and relieves of the sad moments. 

The style of the rhyme scheme is present in most of the poem’s stanzas. The application of the rhyme scheme creates a musical aspect in the poem, makes the poem entertaining, and allows the audience to comprehend the emotion being brought out by the writer. The rhyme scheme is whereby there are lines in the poem ending in similar sounds. For instance; in stanza two lines two, three, four and five;

“Everywhere countless

Prospects unroll themselves,

And countless beings

Pass countless moods.”

The lines end in similar a hissing sound that not only brings out the rhyme scheme in the poem but also created an emotion through the hissing sound. The sound usually depicts danger and possible adversities. In this case, the poem shows the distress in which people are in and also that moments such as those lovers enjoy in their joyous moments are bound to die (Arnold, 2019). Further, the style is illustrated in stanzas three and four in lines 2,3 and 1,2, respectively. This aspect is as labeled letters (a) in the stanzas below;

Far hence, in Asia,

On the smooth convent-roofs, (a)

On the gilt terraces, (a)

Of holy Lassa,

Bright shines the sun.

Grey time-worn marbles (a)

Hold the pure Muses; (a)

In their cool gallery,

By yellow Tiber,

They still look fair.


Arnold, M. (2019). Consolation. Retrieved from (Original work published 1852)

Arnold, M. (2019). Selections from the Prose Work of Matthew Arnold. BoD–Books on Demand.

Sneyd, R. (2018). Matthew Arnold and Giacomo Leopardi: Modernist Lyric Poetics and Stoic Pessimism in” Dover Beach.” Victorian Poetry56(4), 455-475.

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