“In Harmony with Nature” by Matthew Arnold

Background:  Matthew Arnold (1822-88) was a major English poet and one of the foremost literary critics of his age.  He won several poetry prizes already during his school days.  From 1851 to 1886 he served as an inspector of schools where he regularly made reports on the state of education in particular schools; in this capacity he traveled abroad many times, including twice to the U.S.  His career was part of his intellectual conviction that education was the crucial foundation for citizenship in the modern world.  He was also a professor of poetry at Oxford from 1857-67.  Personally he was torn between a sense of despair and an effort to defend civilization against scientific materialism by upholding the essential truth of Christianity against dogmatic formalism.  These lines from the “Grande Chartreuse” reflect this:  “Wandering between two worlds, one dead,/ The other powerless to be born,/ With nowhere yet to rest my head,/ Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.”

What kind of poetry is this (type of text)?

Does Arnold affirm that we should be “in harmony with nature”?  What sorts of contrasts does he set up between “man” and “nature”?  Do you agree with any of them?  Do you think he is “putting down” man or nature by setting up such contrasts?  What does he claim happens if man “befriends” nature?

How does Arnold’s vision fit into the issues raised in this section?  What does it have to say to Bonaventure’s perspective?  How does it contribute anything to your understanding of the intellectual journey?