Matthew Arnold's Literary Suicide: Reparation, Reclamation and Resignation on Etna

by Katherine E. Agar

September 29, 1998


In Empedocles on Etna, Matthew Arnold's repeated metaphorical use of "breast," "bosom," and "thirst" suggest a possible latent concern with part-objects. The need to repair the damaged, or empty, breast is one unconscious motive for Arnold's literary suicide. Melanie Klein's work on intrapsychic relationships among love, hate, and reparation and D. W. Winnicott's theory of the depressive position provide the foundation for an object-relations analysis of Arnold's motivations in dramatizing Empedocles's leap into Mt. Etna. In addition, Winnicott's theory of the True and False Selves brings out the latent conflicts associated with Empedocles's--and Arnold's--intellectual defenses. "When suicide is the only defense left against betrayal of the True Self, then it becomes the lot of the False Self to organize the suicide," writes Winnicott. In Arnold's dramatic poem, a literary (symbolic) suicide is organized, and Empedocles makes a spontaneous gesture toward "mother earth."

The world, a rolling flood
Of newness and delight
Draws in the enamoured gazer to its shining breast. . . . 

     Matthew Arnold's dramatic poem Empedocles on Etna depicts events leading up to the suicide of Empedocles, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. In Empedocles, Arnold presents an extended intellectual defense against unsatisfied need and unrequited desire. But in a sense, the poem's significance for the reader, and perhaps the poet as well, resides in the ultimate rejection of that defense by its chief apologist, the Greek philosopher Empedocles. Curiously, Arnold explores the rudiments of psychological projection through Empedocles's discourse, but at the same time, he projects his Angst about his own separation from the "life of life" on to Empedocles and on to the poem's other historical and mythological personae. The "shining breast" that disappoints becomes Empedocles's image for disillusionment, and although he congratulates himself because he has "nursed no delusion," the stoic philosphy he prescribes to his friend Pausanias as a cure for disappointment does not revive his own spirits. Nor does he respond to the poet Callicles's "soothing" songs drawn from mythology. His final act is a suicide; he triumphantly flings himself into the molten interior of Mt. Etna. However, Callicles remains to present another solution: resignation to Jove and all the powers that are, and have been, as the condition for life.

     Kenneth Allott, C. B. Tinker, and H. F. Lowry have set the composition period for Empedocles between 1849 and 1852 (Poems 154, Tinker and Lowry 286-7). Many of Arnold's best-known and most anthologized poems were also composed between 1849 and 1852, including the Marguerite poems, "Dover Beach," and "Tristram and Iseult." During this time, Arnold was struggling with his romantic attachments to the mysterious (and possibly fictitious) Marguerite1 and to Frances Lucy Wightman, who became his wife. These secondary love objects excited conflicted feelings in Arnold, and the literary result is poetry in which the moods of loneliness and loss, rather than passion, predominate. Another significant event in Arnold's life during this time was the loss of his favorite sister Jane ("K") to her marriage with William Forster, which occurred in 1850, shortly after his loss of Marguerite. Park Honan's biography of Arnold emphasizes both the maternal nature of Jane's relationship to her brother and his disturbance over her marriage. These events were all preceded by the sudden death of his father, Thomas Arnold, in 1842. At that time, Arnold was only twenty.

     First published in Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems (1852), Empedocles was excluded from Poems (1853) and Arnold did not republish it until New Poems (1867). Arnold claims to have excluded Empedocles on Etna from his third volume of poetry, not because the character of Empedocles is poorly delineated, but because in his dramatic poem, "the dialogue of the mind with itself has commenced" (Preface to the first edition of Poems, 1853, CPW 1: 1). The "dialogue of the mind with itself" in Empedocles reflects the state of anxiety that characterized this period in Arnold's life.

     Although the dramatic piece seems unconcerned with feminine objects, Empedocles's speeches about frustrated desire repeat images of nursing that suggest unresolved conflicts with early nurturing. Object-relations theory offers some understanding of the possible unconscious motivations Arnold may have had for depicting a literary suicide. Melanie Klein's theories concerning the preoedipal, or mother-child, relationship provide a basis for my examination of Arnold's feminine images and the feelings of isolation and frustration they convey in the context of Empedocles. Klein's explanation of suicide as an attempt to destroy bad internalized objects and/or to preserve good ones seems relevant in light of Arnold's emphasis on the disappointing breast. Also, D. W. Winnicott's identification of the False Self--the infant's early defense mechanism of over intellectualization in response to external impingement--makes Empedocles's self-destruction less enigmatic when one considers his anguish over the tyranny of the intellect. I have used Winnicott's theory to explore Arnold's ambivalence towards Empedocles's act, which many critics have detected in the contrast between Callicles's songs and Empedocles's philosophy.

     The domineering paternal presence of Thomas Arnold coupled with his early, unexpected death have encouraged psychoanalytic critics to focus upon the oedipal motivation behind Arrnold's literary suicide.2 Although these are relevant issues, I have concentrated upon preoedipal object-relations that demonstrate the importance of maternal objects and part-objects in Arnold's imagery and the development of the intellectual defense. The exclusion of the preoedipal mother from the matrix of associations that inform Arnold's depiction of a suicide results in a systematic and false resolution of the complexity in his work.

Arnold on Etna

     Empedocles on Etna has three characters: Empedocles, a poet and philosopher suffering from intense feelings of alienation; Callicles, a young poet, and Pausanias, a doctor and a friend to the other two men. As the poem begins, Empedocles is making his way up Mt. Etna. Pausanias attempts to detain him and to find out the cause for his distress, and Callicles, lagging behind and out of sight, plays on his lyre and sings. Callicles hopes to soothe Empedocles with his stories drawn from Greek mythology, but instead, the philosopher grows more agitated after each song. While pausing in his ascent, he lectures Pausanias about the inordinate nature of men's desires and advocates a stoic moderation, although he later laments his own enslavement to "thought." Empedocles rails about "the sophist brood," public demands on his privacy, and the general decline of noble character, but he also recognizes that his misery springs from an internal source. Upon reaching Etna's summit, he throws himself into the volcano. The poem ends with Callicles descending the mountain and singing of Apollo.

     The discontent expressed in Empedocles on Etna is not so easily traceable to early object relations, as the poem, unlike many of his lyric poems composed during the same period, does not deal directly with love objects. But Empedocles's apology to Pausanias in the second scene of Act One is filled with metaphors related to infantile feeding. He defines man's problem as his "thirst for bliss" (1.2.168), and acknowledges that even skeptical men are capable of judging "if this be quenched or no" (1.2.171). The desire itself is not the problem: "Nor is the thirst to blame" (1.2.172), but rather man's belief that "The world does but exist [his] welfare to bestow" (1.2.176). Man's desires do not disturb the unresponsive "world," but rather the world destroys man's illusions when "Experience, like a sea, soaks all-effacing in" (1.2.201).

     The full breast appears in the form of a tantalizing illusion :

Again.--Our youthful blood
Claims rapture as its right;
The world, a rolling flood
Of newness and delight,
Draws in the enamoured gazer to its shining breast.  .  .  . (1.2.352-6).
But the "shining breast" is only a deception, for experience teaches that, as breasts may be empty or unavailable, we are denied satisfaction: "That longing of our youth / Burns ever unconsumed, / Still hungrier for delight as delights grow more rare" (1.2.369-71, italics mine). Arnold repeatedly uses feeding metaphors to express Empedocles's disturbance.

     References to nourishment are abundant in Arnold's correspondence. His many letters to his mother and sisters rarely proceed without reference to when or where he has dined or breakfasted. And among the list of "endearing characteristics" that George Russell attributes to Arnold in the "Prefatory Note" to his heavily edited volumes of Arnold's correspondence is "his frank enjoyment . . . of a well-arranged dinner" (ix). The collection of notes published as The Yale Manuscript includes an entry dated between March 1848 and 1849 (during which time Arnold began Empedocles): "After all why am I restless because I have no one to say with tearful eyes to--I am wretched--& to be answered by--mon pauvre enfant--allons--sortons--dinons--&c &c--" (112). This note is accompanied by a miniature sketch of a woman's head in profile, indefinite enough that the picture cannot be identified with a particular person. The entry is a succinct presentation of Arnold's characteristic poetic ennui and its association with female nurturing. The fantasized address, "my poor child," responds to the Arnold's need for maternal sympathy, and the fantasized solution, "come, let us dine," responds to his need for oral satisfaction. The writer, in a sense, feeds himself through his words.3

     Because Empedocles's poetic advice to Pausanias is highly rational, the "shining breast" functions as a rhetorical device whose unconscious significance is disguised by philosophical discourse. Ordinarily, one would not expect repressed content to appear as a literal naming of a repressed object. The "shining breast" in full view of the "enamoured gazer" suggests the less anatomical references to the moon or moonlit waters that appear in Arnold's lyric poems. In those poems, the presence of a specific love object would make the act of gazing upon a "breast" explicitly sensual.

     However, when a writer focuses his mental energies upon philosophical argument, the rhetorical mode may serve as a defense against his awareness of an image's latent significance. The verses that constitute Empedocles's lecture to Pausanias read like a lecture rather than lyric poetry, and the tone suggests a teacher who is frustrated with an uncomprehending student. The combination of Arnold's poetic form and his rational content creates a powerful defense against feelings, boiling, like Etna, deep in the interior. The considerable number of literary critics who have commented on Empedocles on Etna attribute the source of Empedocles's (and Arnold's) disillusionment to everything but the literal object Empedocles names: the shining breast. Thus, the form of discourse encourages the author's and the readers' willingness to reject the literal meaning of "breast" and to substitute many other probable tenors for the vehicle (breast) in the metaphor.

     The poem provides conflicting views about the sources of Empedocles's discontent. First, Pausanias tells Callicles that "this new swarm of sophists" (1.1121) has alienated Empedocles from the world, an explanation that Callicles rejects:

He is too scornful, too high-wrought, too bitter.
'Tis not the times, 'tis not the sophists vex him;
There is some root of suffering in himself,
Some secret and unfollowed vein of woe,
Which makes the time look black and sad to him (1.1.149-53).
    Then Empedocles's lengthy apology to Pausanias locates the source of man's discontent within his own breast: "Well, then, the wiser wight / In his own bosom delves, / And asks what ails him so, and gets what cure he can" (1.2.129-30). Empedocles advises Pausanias, "Once read thy own breast right, / And thou hast done with fears" (1.2.142-3). Arnold's repeated metaphorical use of "breast," "bosom," and "thirst" suggest a possible latent concern with part-objects. The interior act of delving into one's own bosom to get a cure anticipates Empedocles's final act of leaping into the volcano, as does reading one's own breast right.

     However, in Act Two, Empedocles reinforces Pausanias's assumption that the causes for his distress are external: "And the world hath the day, and must break thee, / Not thou the world" (2.17-18), although he has just finished delivering a lecture to Pausanias about the errors of men who believe that "The world does but exist [their] welfare to bestow" (1.2.176). Empedocles complains about the "sophist-brood" who overlay "man's consciousness with words" (2.29-30) before he cries out to his "friends," the elements, "Receive me, hide me, quench me, take me home!" (2.36, italics mine). On the one hand, the tantalizing "shining breast" seems to exist in the world, man's (Empedocles's) environment, while on the other hand, the void, the root of suffering, resides in his own breast. For Empedocles, the "bad" breast, becomes both the internal "void which in our breasts we bear" (1.2.376) and the external "sophist-brood." The "good" breast becomes both the external, friendly parent elements, "Down in our mother earth's miraculous womb" (2.339), and the self that identifies with those good parental elements.

     The preoedipal problem of the damaged breast is not the only latent conflict in Empedocles. An intellectual solution for frustrated needs results in the tyranny of mind. Empedocles believes that he understands the process of projection. He looks at the stars and recollects that they were once joyful participants in an "older world," a "mightier order," once "peopled by gods" (2.285-6). He sees them as "Uncaring and undelighted" (2.297). But almost immediately, he recognizes his mistake in attributing his own disturbance to the stars: " .  .  . I alone / Am dead to life and joy, therefore I read / In all things my own deadness" (2.320-2). This intellectual recognition is preceded by a speech that unconsciously links the source of internal deadness to the ephemeral "shining breast." Happiness is linked to "fullness": "Fullness of life and power of feeling, ye /Are for the happy, for the souls at ease, /Who dwell on a firm basis of content!" (2.258-60, italics mine) In contrast, he "[w]hose mind was fed on other food.  .  .  . "must subsist / In ceaseless opposition, be the guard / Of his own breast" (2.264-269, italics mine). And he

Who has no minute's breathing space allow'd
To nurse his dwindling faculty of joy -
Joy and the outward world must die to him,
As they are dead to me (2.272-5, italics mine).
Arnold's repression of the "dwindling" breasts that he has nursed is intellectualized as Empedocles's self-admonition about projecting his own deadness on to the stars. But Empedocles is not calmed by his self-correction; he only grows more agitated.

     The soliloquy on "deadness" is followed by an agonized protest against the "devouring flame of thought" (italics mine) and the "eternally restless mind" that seem to separate Empedocles from the elements to which physical bodies return. Physical bodies have their source: "And we might gladly share the fruitful stir / Down in our mother earth's miraculous womb" (2.339-40). But the mind has no such resting place:

But mind, but thought -
If these have been the master part of us, -
Where will they find their parent element?
What will receive them, who will call them home? (2.347-8)
    Mind and thought will "keep us prisoners of our consciousness, / And never let us clasp and feel the All / But through their forms, and modes, and stifling veils" (352-4). The result is that "we shall feel the agony of thirst" (2.356, italics mine). Empedocles's language belies his contention that he has never been a "slave of sense," for his attempted denial of the senses leaves him thirsty or "dead."

     After acknowledging his projection of internal deadness onto the stars, he returns to a familiar image of tranquillity, the moon over water:

          .  .  . that other fainter sea, far down,
O'er whose lit floor a road of moonbeams leads
                  *         *         *
That mild and luminous floor of waters lives,
With held-in joy swelling its heart" (2.315-16).
     Predictably, as in the "Marguerite" poems and in "Dover Beach," moonlight heralds the speaker's anguish.4 Empedocles continues:
          .  .  .  . I only,
Whose spring of hope is dried, whose spirit has fail'd,
I have not, like these, in solitude
Maintained courage and force, and in myself
Nursed an immortal vigour--I alone
Am dead to life and joy, therefore I read
In all things my own deadness (2.316-22, italics mine).
     Rather than nursing "an immortal vigour," Empedocles drains the spring dry. To cope with "the void which in our breasts we bear," he counsels Pausanias: we should not "fly to dreams, but moderate desire" (1.2.386). It appears that men must deal with their unsatiated hunger by telling themselves that they are not so hungry after all--a powerful demand on the potency of reason, and, perhaps, on the potency of poetry as a symbolic feeding. Empedocles ends by instructing Pausanias : "Nurse no extravagant hope" (1.2.425). The choice of the verb "nurse" suggests the earlier reference to the "shining breast." At the same time, he tries to mediate this hunger through words--the words of stoic philosophy.

     Intellectual deliverance does not work for Empedocles. Linda Ray Pratt says,

His intellect pursues one discourse, and his emotions another one and the two have no reconciliation. So extreme a disjunction will either make reality seem fantasy or the self a phantasm, both conditions which starve consciousness until it can create nothing within or without except the thought of its own nothingness (84, italics mine).
The entire poem contains a dialectic of desire and reason, in which reason attempts to moderate desire, and desire reasserts itself in the rejection of intellect.

     Arnold provided his own explanation of Empedocles's motivation for suicide: ".  .  .  . he desires to die; to be reunited with the universe, before by exaggerating his human side he has become utterly estranged from it" (Yale MS 137). Empedocles's final speech is triumphant rather than despondent. Suicide becomes an act of salvation, or reclamation of some part of the self. He addresses the physical elements, expressing the belief that he will not "die wholly," and cries out as he leaps, "Receive me, save me!" (2.416)

     Melanie Klein offers an explanation for the sense of reclamation felt by some suicides:

According to the findings of Abraham and James Glover, a suicide is directed against the introjected object. But while in committing suicide the ego intends to murder its bad objects, in my view at the same time it also always aims at saving its loved objects, internal or external. To put it shortly: in some cases the phantasies underlying the suicide aim at preserving the internalized good objects and that part of the ego which is identified with good objects, and also at destroying the other part of the ego which is identified with the bad objects and the id. Thus the ego is enabled to become united with its love objects (55-6).

     Empedocles attempts to reunite with the universe, or to "save" that part of himself identified with the "good," while destroying the "too human," damaged part. When he looks inside himself, he finds only the void that is the bad breast, and he seethes with rage at himself, for he is responsible for emptying it. Who else can he blame? When he listens outside himself, he finds only words, which do nothing to fill the void. There is no resting place for man: "Nor does being weary prove that he has where to rest" (1.2.251). The acts of delving into his own bosom to read it right and of jumping into the volcano are both attempts to restore the damaged part-object. Insofar as Arnold's repressed wishes speak through Empedocles's act, the need to repair the damaged, or empty, breast is one unconscious motive for his literary suicide.

     The desire to escape from the tyranny of "mind" provides a second motive for the suicide. Christopher Bollas says, "We use the structure of the mother's imagining and handling of our self to objectify and manage our true self" (51). If that handling does not include the mother's responsiveness to the real needs of her infant so that those needs can be mediated for him--if, for example, the mother is depressed, ill, or absent (unresponsive) or too aggressive (demands reaction)--the infant must react rather than "be."

     In "Mind and Its Relation to the Psyche-Soma," D. W. Winnicott explains the function of thinking in the infant's adaptation to the impingement of his environment:

The need for a good environment, which is absolute at first, rapidly becomes relative. The ordinary good mother is good enough. If she is good enough the infant becomes able to allow for her deficiencies by mental activity.  .  .  . . The mental activity of the infant turns a good-enough environment into a perfect environment.  .  .  .  . What releases the mother from her need to be near-perfect is the infant's understanding (245).
    The use of mental activity to compensate for the absence of a perfect environment is a gradual development that requires the cooperation of the nurturer (and nurturing environment). Part of the nurturing function of the mother is to provide a "graduated failure of adaptation, according to the growing ability of the individual infant to allow for relative failure by mental activity, or by understanding" (246).

     When the environment becomes "tantalizing" or aggressive toward the infant, he may be unable to adapt, and mental disorders may develop. But more commonly, the impingement may cause an accelerated use of mental activity as a coping mechanism. As a result, Winnicott says that "we find mental functioning becoming a thing in itself, practically replacing the good mother and making her unnecessary" (246). Thus mind becomes its own "parent element" by developing what Winnicott terms a False Self. The True Self manifests its existence through spontaneous gestures when the mother responds and positively reaffirms those gestures. In contrast, a False Self develops when the mother "substitutes her own gesture which is to be given sense by the infant" ("True and False Self" 145).

     Biographical information reveals that Arnold's parents were vigilant in the nursery, particularly with their first son. Some of this interest was intensely critical. One might consider, for example, the failure of Arnold's parents to appreciate his spontaneous gesture of sleeping on his stomach rather than his back, or of Thomas Arnold already responding to his six-month-old son as "backward and rather bad tempered'" (Wymer 73). Winnicott identifies chronic irritability and feeding problems in the infant with his having to meet excessive parental needs for compliance ("True and False Self" 146). The demand for this kind of compliance was, of course, somewhat characteristic of the Victorian middle-class view of children, but Thomas Arnold made himself famous for denouncing and reforming the errant tendencies of young boys. With the ready assistance of Mary Arnold, he directed and critiqued the course of his children's development from a very tender age.

     Winnicott explains what may happen when the individual lives out of a False Self:

Breakdown threatens or occurs, because what the individual is all the time needing is to find someone else who will make real this "good environment" concept, so that the individual may return to the dependent psyche-soma which forms the only place to live from. In this case "without mind" becomes a desired state (247).
At times, this is exactly the state in which Arnold felt himself to exist, just as Empedocles feels like a "slave of thought."

     Paradoxically, death becomes a means of preserving the integrity of the True Self. Winnicott says, "Suicide in this context is the destruction of the total self in avoidance of the annihilation of the True Self. When suicide is the only defense left against betrayal of the True Self, then it becomes the lot of the False Self to organize the suicide" ("True and False Self" 143). In Empedocles, a literary (symbolic) suicide is organized, and Empedocles makes a spontaneous gesture toward "mother earth," who takes him home. His gesture is not spontaneous in the sense of lacking any premeditation; it is spontaneous because it affirms the needs and desires arising from the psyche-soma. He rejects the compliant self's accommodating response to stoic resignation, and refuses to adapt himself by assuming Callicles's classical poise.

     Paul Zietlow, who sees Callicles as the classical spokesman for order, reason, and harmony says,

The irony is that Callicles' songs, despite the wholeness of classic vision suggested in them, exacerbate rather than soothe Empedocles' inner conflict. They inspire him to deny his ties to Olympian power and Apolline principle and to rely exclusively on his independent resources of feeling and vision (251).
Zietlow argues that Empedocles misinterprets the myths in Callicles' songs, but that Arnold does not. It is possible, however, that Arnold, like Empedocles, responds emotionally to the unconscious content of the myths even though he accepts their stance toward moral order.

     Internalized feelings of envy, jealousy, rage, and guilt are acted out by gods in Callicles's tales from mythological times. For example, he tells the story of the satyr, Marsyas, who challenges Apollo to a musical duel. Marsyas loses and is "Hang'd upon a branching fir," to be flayed alive (2.148). Apollo stands by, aloof, watching the whetting of the knife, while Marsyas's friend and pupil, Olympus, weeps in pity:

Therefore now Olympus stands,
At his master's piteous cries
Pressing fast with both his hands
His white garment to his eyes.
Not to see Apollo's scorn;--
Ah, poor Faun, poor Faun! ah, poor Faun! (2.184-90)
Empedocles's disturbance over these tales actually represents an unconscious authorial reaction to a source of Arnold's own discontent: the paternal directives that demand a distancing from the instinctive self and the repression of his own aggressive drives toward the maternal object. His agitation stands in stark contrast to Callicles's calm.

     Empedocles's suicide is a destructive act from the perspective of Arnold's Calliclean voice, but it is also an act of reclamation from the perspective of his Empedoclean voice. Had Empedocles "heeded" the songs of Callicles, as Zietlow believes he should have, he would have accepted as his parent element the modes and forms and stifling veils of mediated experience. Instead, he chose the spontaneous gesture. The two voices cannot be reconciled in the poem, nor can either voice adequately speak for the composite "self" of the author.


1 The identity of Marguerite has been the subject of considerable speculation by critics. Arnold himself suggested that she was a fiction, but the timing of the compositions, their settings at Thun, which he visited in the fall of 1848 and 1849, and several vague references in letters to Clough all indicate that the persona was at least based upon a real woman. Kenneth and Miriam Allott have defended the notion that Maguerite was "a French girl whom he met at Thun Sept. 1848 and 1849," though her "name, nationality and appearance are known only from the poems" (Poems 121). Park Honan, on the other hand, has argued that Marguerite was an English girl, Mary Claude, a friend and acquaintance of the Arnolds (150-68). In either case, Arnold may have characterized his Marguerite by drawing from a number of love objects, consciously or unconsciously. The lyrics express moods of disturbance, loneliness, isolation, and loss more than they convey a vivid picture of the woman herself. At the same time, these feelings seem to revolve around the presence and absence of a particular blue-eyed blond, whoever she might have been.

2 Callicles signals the triumph of the paternal order, as his muses "hymn" the "Father." Kenneth Burke's understanding of the unconscious motivation behind Arnold's literary suicide is fairly representative of those psychoanalytic critics who focus upon the oedipal issues:

    Our knowledge of Matthew Arnold's relation to his father suggests an extra-literary "use" for the imagery of self-effacement in both these poems [Empedocles and Sohrab]. Despite their many differences, both are acts of the same poetic agent, sharing the common substance of the one authorship. And both can be seen as aspects of the same attitude towards life. Indeed, when we put them together, we note this possibility: that Arnold could poetically identify himself with the figure of Empedocles because his pious deference to the authority of his father could be aptly expressed in such imagery of self-effacement as goes with Empedocles's cosmically motivated despair (532).
3 An interesting commentary on the relationship between nursing and writing is offered by Edmund Bergler, a psychiatrist who treated many writers. Specifically, he refers to Arnold's "The Sick King in Bokhara" (1849), another dramatic poem, in which "a certain Moolah" demands his own execution for the crime of cursing his mother. Bergler uses the poem as an example of a repressed masochistic response rendered as poetry, claiming that a productive writer "denies his psychic masochistic attachment to the image of the pre-oedipal mother, by denying 'autarchically' her mere existence" (88-9). "Time and again," Bergler says, "the lactational precursor of poetry is doubted" (89).

4 The moon image appears in most of Arnold's Marguerite poems as well. In "To Marguerite-Continued" (1852), for example, the estranged islands feel a "longing like despair" after the moon lights their hollows, just as the mer-children in "The Forsaken Merman" (1849) long for their mother "When clear falls the moonlight." "Dover Beach" (composed 1851), perhaps Arnold's most anthologized poem, associates moonlight with the tide's ebb and flow. In his manuscript, Arnold first used the term "suck," for which he later substituted the less suggestive "draw": "Listen! You hear the grating roar / Of pebbles which the waves suck back and fling .  .  .  . " (Tinker and Lowry 174, italics mine).


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To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Katherine E. Agar "Matthew Arnold's Literary Suicide: Reparation, Reclamation and Resignation on Etna". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. Available December 5, 2023 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: July 15, 1998, Published: September 29, 1998. Copyright © 1998 Katherine E. Agar