The Political Sonnet

  • Joseph Phelan


Matthew Arnold’s response to the French Revolution of 1848 was articulated in part through a pair of sonnets addressed ‘To a Republican Friend’, the friend in question being his close confidant and poetic rival Arthur Hugh Clough. The first of these sonnets expresses a mild if not entirely convincing enthusiasm for the general aims of the revolution, while the second voices an altogether more detached and sceptical view of events:
  • Yet, when I muse on what life is, I seem

  • Rather to patience prompted, than that proud

  • Prospect of hope which France proclaims so loud —

  • France, famed in all great arts, in none supreme;

  • Seeing this vale, this earth, whereon we dream,

  • Is on all sides o’ershadowed by the high

  • Uno’erleaped Mountains of Necessity,

  • Sparing us narrower margin than we deem.

  • Nor will that day dawn at a human nod,

  • When, bursting through the network superposed

  • By selfish occupation — plot and plan,

  • Lust, avarice, envy — liberated man,

  • All difference with his fellow-mortal closed,

  • Shall be left standing face to face with God.


Adverbial Clause Closing Section Henry Versus Poetic Expression Italian Counterpart 
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© Joseph Patrick Phelan 2005

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  • Joseph Phelan

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