Shakespeare

by Matthew Arnold

Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask--Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill,
Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,

Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil'd searching of mortality;

And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure,
Didst tread on earth unguess'd at.--Better so!

All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow,
Find their sole speech in that victorious brow.

 

 


Title:

Shakespeare

Poet:

Arnold, Matthew

Year of Publication:

1849

Age Appropriate:

15-16

Notes:

Beauty

Form:

Enclosed rhyme

Stanza:

4

Type:

Lyric

Lines:

14

Meter:

Iambic

Rhyme:

abab

Literary Period:

Victorian

Things to Discuss:

Is the first line a question or a statement in the form of a question? In this sonnet what is the promise the poet makes? What is the significance of the closing couplet? Try to restate in different words? Do you think the poet's words are overstated?

About the Poem:

Arnold seems to be searching for or questioning the source of Shakespeare's greatness as it was "self-schooled" "self-scanned".