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2] If the following pages seem to discuss them too minutely, it can only be pleaded that those to whom it seems so are hardly in sympathy with Matthew Arnold himself. And if the discussion seems to any one too often to take the form of a critical examination, let him remember Mr. Arnold’s own words in comparing the treatment of Milton by Macaulay and by M. Scherer:— “Whoever comes to the Essay on Milton with the desire to get at the real truth about Milton, whether as a man or a poet, will feel that the essay in nowise helps him.
Not merely the show passages—that which the Roman father, “Though young, intolerably severe,” saved from banishment and retained by itself in the 1853 volume, as Cadmus and Harmonia, and the beautiful lyrical close,—but the picture of the highest wooded glen on Etna, and the Flaying of Marsyas, are delightful things. Tristram and Iseult, with fewer good patches, has a greater technical interest. It is only one, but it is the most remarkable, of the places where we perceive in Mr Arnold one of the most curious of the notes of transition-poets.
Which one of Mr Arnold’s own contemporaries formulated with less magnificence and more popularity, but still with music and truth in Strangers Yet—here receives almost its final poetical expression. ” Human Life, no ill thing in itself, reads a little weakly after Isolation; but Despondency is a pretty piece of melancholy, and, with a comfortable stool, will suit a man well. In the sonnet, When I shall be divorced, Mr Arnold tried the Elizabethan vein with less success than in his Shakespeare piece; and Self-Deception and Lines written by a Death-Bed, with some beauty have more monotony.