The poetical works of Matthew Arnold/Notes

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Note 1, Page 2.

Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen.

The name Europe (Εὐρώπη, the wide prospect) probably describes the appearance of the European coast to the Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor opposite. The name Asia, again, comes, it has been thought, from the muddy fens of the rivers of Asia Minor, such as the Cayster or Mæander, which struck the imagination of the Greeks living near them.

Note 2, Page 8.


"After Chephren, Mycerinus, son of Cheops, reigned over Egypt. He abhorred his father's courses, and judged his subjects more justly than any of their kings had done. To him there came an oracle from the city of Buto, to the effect that he was to live but six years longer, and to die in the seventh year from that time."—Herodotus.

Note 3, Page 37.


Stagirius was a young monk to whom St. Chrysostom addressed three books, and of whom those books give an account. They will be found in the first volume of the Benedictine edition of St. Chrysostom's works.

Note 4, Page 51.

That wayside inn we left to-day.

Those who have been long familiar with the English Lake Country will find no difficulty in recalling, from the description in the text, the roadside inn at Wythburn, on the descent from Dunmail Raise towards Keswick; its sedentary landlord of thirty years ago; and the passage over the Wythburn Fells to Watendlath.

Note 5, Page 61.

Sohrab and Rustum.

The story of Sohrab and Rustum is told in Sir John Malcolm's "History of Persia," as follows:—

"The young Sohrab was the fruit of one of Rustum's early amours. He had left his mother, and sought fame under the banners of Afrasiab, whose armies he commanded; and soon obtained a renown beyond that of all contemporary heroes but his father. He had carried death and dismay into the ranks of the Persians, and had terrified the boldest warriors of that country, before Rustum encountered him, which at last that hero resolved to do under a feigned name. They met three times. The first time, they parted by mutual consent, though Sohrab had the advantage; the second, the youth obtained a victory, but granted life to his unknown father; the third was fatal to Sohrab, who, when writhing in the pangs of death, warned his conqueror to shun the vengeance that is inspired by parental woes, and bade him dread the rage of the mighty Rustum, who must soon learn that he had slain his son Sohrab. These words, we are told, were as death to the aged hero; and when he recovered from a trance, he called in despair for proofs of what Sohrab had said. The afflicted and dying youth tore open his mail, and showed his father a seal which his mother had placed on his arm when she discovered to him the secret of his birth, and bade him seek his father. The sight of his own signet rendered Rustum quite frantic: he cursed himself, attempting to put an end to his existence, and was only prevented by the efforts of his expiring son. After Sohrab's death, he burned his tents and all his goods, and carried the corpse to Seistan, where it was interred; the army of Turan was, agreeably to the last request of Sohrab, permitted to cross the Oxus unmolested. To reconcile us to the improbability of this tale, we are informed that Rustum could have no idea his son was in existence. The mother of Sohrab had written to him her child was a daughter, fearing to lose her darling infant if she revealed the truth; and Rustum, as before stated, fought under a feigned name, an usage not uncommon in the chivalrous combats of those days."

Note 6, Page 96.

Balder Dead.

"Balder the Good having been tormented with terrible dreams, indicating that his life was in great peril, communicated them to the assembled Æsir, who resolved to conjure all things to avert from him the threatened danger. Then Frigga exacted an oath from fire and water, from iron and all other metals, as well as from stones, earths, diseases, beasts, birds, poisons, and creeping things, that none of them would do any harm to Balder. When this was done, it became a favorite pastime of the Æsir, at their meetings, to get Balder to stand up and serve them as a mark, some hurling darts at him, some stones, while others hewed at him with their swords and battle-axes; for, do they what they would, none of them could harm him, and this was regarded by all as a great honor shown to Balder. But when Loki beheld the scene, he was sorely vexed that Balder was not hurt. Assuming, therefore, the shape of a woman, he went to Fensalir, the mansion of Frigga. That goddess, when she saw the pretended woman, inquired of her if she knew what the Æsir were doing at their meetings. She replied, that they were throwing darts and stones at Balder without being able to hurt him.

"'Ay,' said Frigga, 'neither metal nor wood can hurt Balder, for I have exacted an oath from all of them.'

"'What!' exclaimed the woman, 'have all things sworn to spare Balder?'

"'All things,' replied Frigga, 'except one little shrub that grows on the eastern side of Valhalla, and is called Mistletoe, and which I thought too young and feeble to crave an oath from.'

"As soon as Loki heard this, he went away, and, resuming his natural shape, cut off the mistletoe, and repaired to the place where the gods were assembled. There he found Hodur standing apart, without partaking of the sports, on account of his blindness; and going up to him said, 'Why dost thou not also throw something at Balder?'

"'Because I am blind,' answered Hodur, 'and see not where Balder is, and have, moreover, nothing to throw with.'

"'Come, then,' said Loki, 'do like the rest, and show honor to Balder by throwing this twig at him, and I will direct thy arm toward the place where he stands.'

"Hodur then took the mistletoe, and, under the guidance of Loki, darted it at Balder, who, pierced through and through, fell down lifeless."—Edda.

Note 7, Page 133.

Tristram and Iseult.

"In the court of his uncle King Marc, the king of Cornwall, who at this time resided at the castle of Tyntagel, Tristram became expert in all knightly exercises. The king of Ireland, at Tristram's solicitations, promised to bestow his daughter Iseult in marriage on King Marc. The mother of Iseult gave to her daughter's confidante a philtre, or love-potion, to be administered on the night of her nuptials. Of this beverage Tristram and Iseult, on their voyage to Cornwall, unfortunately partook. Its influence, during the remainder of their lives, regulated the affections and destiny of the lovers.

"After the arrival of Tristram and Iseult in Cornwall, and the nuptials of the latter with King Marc, a great part of the romance is occupied with their contrivances to procure secret interviews.—Tristram, being forced to leave Cornwall on account of the displeasure of his uncle, repaired to Brittany, where lived Iseult with the White Hands. He married her, more out of gratitude than love. Afterwards he proceeded to the dominions of Arthur, which became the theatre of unnumbered exploits.

"Tristram, subsequent to these events, returned to Brittany, and to his long-neglected wife. There, being wounded and sick, he was soon reduced to the lowest ebb. In this situation, he dispatched a confidant to the queen of Cornwall, to try if he could induce her to accompany him to Brittany," etc.—Dunlop's History of Fiction.

Note 8, Page 169.

That son of Italy who tried to blow.

Giacopone di Todi.

Note 9, Page 174.

Recalls the obscure opposer he outweighed.

Gilbert de la Porrée, at the Council of Rheims in 1148.

Note 10, Page 175.

Of that unpitying Phrygian sect which cried.

The Montanists.

Note 11, Page 176.


See St. Augustine's "Confessions," book ix. chapter 11.

Note 12, Page 177.

My Marguerite smiles upon the strand.

See, among "Early Poems," the poem called "A Memory-Picture," p. 23.

Note 13, Page 201.

The Hunter of the Tanagræan Field.

Orion, the Wild Huntsman of Greek legend, and in this capacity appearing in both earth and sky.

Note 14, Page 202.

O'er the sun-reddened western straits.

Erytheia, the legendary region around the Pillars of Hercules, probably took its name from the redness of the west, under which the Greeks saw it.

Note 15, Page 224.

Of the sun-loving gentian, in the heat.

The gentiana lutea.

Note 16, Page 248.

Ye Sun-born Virgins! on the road of truth.

See the Fragments of Parmenides:—

...κοῦραι δ' ὁδὸν ἡγεμόνευον,
ἡλίαδες κοῦραι, προλιποῦσαι δώματα νυκτός,
εἰς φάος............

Note 17, Page 381.

The Scholar-Gypsy.

"There was very lately a lad in the University of Oxford, who was by his poverty forced to leave his studies there; and at last to join himself to a company of vagabond gypsies. Among these extravagant people, by the insinuating subtilty of his carriage, he quickly got so much of their love and esteem as that they discovered to him their mystery. After he had been a pretty while exercised in the trade, there chanced to ride by a couple of scholars, who had formerly been of his acquaintance. They quickly spied out their old friend among the gypsies; and he gave them an account of the necessity which drove him to that kind of life, and told them that the people he went with were not such impostors as they were taken for, but that they had a traditional kind of learning among them, and could do wonders by the power of imagination, their fancy binding that of others; that himself had learned much of their art, and when he had compassed the whole secret, he intended, he said, to leave their company, and give the world an account of what he had learned."—Glanvil's Vanity of Dogmatizing, 1661.

Note 18, Page 389.


Throughout this poem there is reference to the preceding piece, "The Scholar-Gypsy."

Note 19, Page 395.

Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing.

Daphnis, the ideal Sicilian shepherd of Greek pastoral poetry, was said to have followed into Phrygia his mistress Piplea, who had been carried off by robbers, and to have found her in the power of the king of Phrygia, Lityerses. Lityerses used to make strangers try a contest with him in reaping corn, and to put them to death if he overcame them. Hercules arrived in time to save Daphnis, took upon himself the reaping-contest with Lityerses, overcame him, and slew him. The Lityerses-song connected with this tradition was, like the Linus-song, one of the early plaintive strains of Greek popular poetry, and used to be sung by corn-reapers. Other traditions represented Daphnis as beloved by a nymph who exacted from him an oath to love no one else. He fell in love with a princess, and was struck blind by the jealous nymph. Mercury, who was his father, raised him to heaven, and made a fountain spring up in the place from which he ascended. At this fountain the Sicilians offered yearly sacrifices. See Servius, Comment. in Virgil. Bucol., v. 20 and viii. 68.

Note 20, Page 402.

Ah! where is he, who should have come.

The author's brother, William Delafield Arnold, Director of Public Instruction in the Punjab, and author of "Oakfield, or Fellowship in the East," died at Gibraltar, on his way home from India, April the 9th, 1859.

Note 21, Page 403.

So moonlit, saw me once of yore.

See the poem, "A Summer Night," p. 280.

Note 22, Page 403.

My brother! and thine early lot.

See Note 20.

Note 23, Page 407.

I saw the meeting of two
Gifted women.

Charlotte Brontë and Harriet Martineau.

Note 24, Page 410.

Whose too bold dying song.

See the last lines written by Emily Brontë, in "Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell."

Note 25, Page 424.

Goethe too had been there.

See Harzreise im Winter, in Goethe's Gedichte.

Note 26, Page 432.

The author of Obermann, Étienne Pivert de Senancour, has little celebrity in France, his own country; and out of France he is almost unknown. But the profound inwardness, the austere sincerity, of his principal work, Obermann, the delicate feeling for nature which it exhibits, and the melancholy eloquence of many passages of it, have attracted and charmed some of the most remarkable spirits of this century, such as George Sand and Sainte-Beuve, and will probably always find a certain number of spirits whom they touch and interest.

Senancour was born in 1770. He was educated for the priesthood, and passed some time in the Seminary of St. Sulpice; broke away from the seminary and from France itself, and passed some years in Switzerland, where he married; returned to France in middle life, and followed thenceforward the career of a man of letters, but with hardly any fame or success. He died an old man in 1846, desiring that on his grave might be placed these words only: Éternité, deviens mon asile!

The influence of Rousseau, and certain affinities with more famous and fortunate authors of his own day,—Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël,—are everywhere visible in Senancour. But though, like these eminent personages, he may be called a sentimental writer, and though Obermann, a collection of letters from Switzerland treating almost entirely of nature and of the human soul, may be called a work of sentiment, Senancour has a gravity and severity which distinguish him from all other writers of the sentimental school. The world is with him in his solitude far less than it is with them; of all writers, he is the most perfectly isolated and the least attitudinizing, His chief work, too, has a value and power of its own, apart from these merits of its author. The stir of all the main forces by which modern life is and has been impelled lives in the letters of Obermann; the dissolving agencies of the eighteenth century, the fiery storm of the French Revolution, the first faint promise and dawn of that new world which our own time is but now fully bringing to light,—all these are to be felt, almost to be touched, there. To me, indeed, it will always seem that the impressiveness of this production can hardly be rated too high.

Besides Obermann, there is one other of Senancour's works which, for those spirits who feel his attraction, is very interesting: its title is Libres Méditations d'un Solitaire Inconnu.

Note 27, Page 432.

Behind are the abandoned baths.

The Baths of Leuk. This poem was conceived, and partly composed, in the valley going down from the foot of the Gemmi Pass towards the Rhone.

Note 28, Page 438.

Glion? Ah! twenty years, it cuts.

Probably all who know the Vevey end of the Lake of Geneva will recollect Glion, the mountain village above the Castle of Chillon. Glion now has hotels, pensions, and villas; but twenty years ago it was hardly more than the huts of Avant opposite to it,—huts through which goes that beautiful path over the Col de Jaman, followed by so many foot-travellers on their way from Vevey to the Simmenthal and Thun.

Note 29, Page 439.

The gentian-flowered pass, its crown.

See Note 15.

Note 30, Page 439.

And walls where Byron came.

Montbovon. See Byron's Journal, in his "Works," vol. iii. p. 258. The river Saane becomes the Sarine below Montbovon.

Note 31, Page 451.

Couldst thou no better keep, O Abbey old,
The boon thy dedication-sign foretold.

"Ailred of Rievaulx, and several other writers, assert that Sebert, king of the East Saxons and nephew of Ethelbert, founded the Abbey of Westminster very early in the seventh century.

"Sulcardus, who lived in the time of William the Conqueror, gives a minute account of the miracle supposed to have been worked at the consecration of the Abbey.

"The church had been prepared against the next day for dedication. On the night preceding, St. Peter appeared on the opposite side of the water to a fisherman, desiring to be conveyed to the farther shore. Having left the boat, St. Peter ordered the fisherman to wait, promising him a reward on his return. An innumerable host from heaven accompanied the apostle, singing choral hymns, while everything was illuminated with a supernatural light. The dedication having been completed, St. Peter returned to the fisherman, quieted his alarm at what had passed, and announced himself as the apostle. He directed the fisherman to go as soon as it was day to the authorities, to state what he had seen and heard, and to inform them that, in corroboration of his testimony, they would find the marks of consecration on the walls of the church. In obedience to the apostle's direction, the fisherman waited on Mellitus, Bishop of London, who, going to the church, found not only marks of the chrism, but of the tapers with which the church had been illuminated. Mellitus, therefore, desisted from proceeding to a new consecration, and contented himself with the celebration of the mass."—Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum (edition of 1817), vol. i. pp. 265, 266. See also Montalembert, Les Mouies d' Occident, vol. iii. pp. 428-432.

Note 32, Page 454.

The charm'd babe of the Eleusinian king.

Demophoön, son of Celeus, king of Eleusis. See, in the Homeric Hymns, the Hymn to Demeter, 184-298.

Note 33, Page 455.

That Pair, whose head did plan, whose hands did forge
The Temple in the pure Parnassian gorge.

Agamedes and Trophonius, the builders of the temple of Apollo at Delphi. See Plutarch, Consolatio dd Apollonium, c. 14.

Note 34, Page 465.

Stol'n from Aristophanes.

See The Birds of Aristophanes, 465-485.

Note 35, Page 467.

Of Robin's reed.

"Come, join the melancholious croon
O' Robin's reed."—Burns, Poor Mailie's Elegy.