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“Growing Old” – a Poem by Matthew Arnold Essay

What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
Yes, but not for this alone.

Is it to feel our strength
Not our bloom only, but our strength decay?
Is it to feel each limb
Grow stiffer, every function less exact,
Each nerve more weakly strung?

Yes, this, and more! but not,
Ah, ’tis not what in youth we dreamed ‘twould be!
‘Tis not to have our life
Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow,
A golden day’s decline!

‘Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fulness of the past,
The years that are no more!

It is to spend long days
And not once feel that we were ever young.
It is to add, immured
In the hot prison of the present, month
To month with weary pain.

It is to suffer this,
And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel:
Deep in our hidden heart
Festers the dull remembrance of a change,
But no emotion none.

It is last stage of all
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man.

Harneet Banga

When we are younger we often imagine how great it would be to be older. However, when we are older, we can no longer enjoy life the way we used to, due to our physical body. Therefore the poem “Growing Old” by Matthew Arnold, basically interprets, that we should enjoy the present time we are given in life rather than looking forward to a time we think we’ll enjoy. Matthew Arnold has described the elderly people and the meaning of the poem, right through the poem, with the help of poetic devices. The specific idea of imagery of this poem appears to be related directly to the passage on old age people. For example, “Grow stiffer, every function less exact,” this quote states that once you’re older, the body of an old age person becomes stiffer, and they function less exact, this quotes states imagery because they describe how an old person feels and how their brain functions as well.

In each stanza, Arnold has answered the question he posed in the first stanza which is, “What is it to grow old?” in each stanza that question is answered. Since the theme of this poem is about Old people, there are many symbols in this poem that describe the theme of the poem, and we could use this poetic device which is symbolism. The words such as, “old, wreath, last stage, stiffer, strength decay, etc” are words in the poem that symbolises growing old, basically symbolising the meaning of the poem. Simile is when you compare two nouns, and Arnold has used this device to explain how it feels to be old, “As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,” the words used in this example, have no common interest with one another, but it still demonstrates the meaning of the poem.

Harneet Banga

A dictionary definition of the word elderly will probably has something to do with mature and aged people, but the connation to describe the word elderly in the poem are, “Is it to lose the glory of the form,” or “The lustre of the eye” this is the connation version of describing the meaning of the poem, which are old people. This fantastic poem is missing one thing which would probably make this poem sound much better, which is the rhyming of the poem, it always lets people get into the poem, but unfortunately this wasn’t used in the poem. Since this poem doesn’t have a rhyme scheme, the meter of this poem is irregular; it doesn’t follow the “da Dum da Dum da Dum da Dum” style, it has come up with another original and unique style for the readers to figure out the meaning of the poem. Alliteration wasn’t common in this poem, let’s say it was hardly used; alliteration is having the same letter in one line couple of times, “And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel:” Arnold uses this line in an alliteration way to describe how old age people feel, they basically feel in an extremely pathetically way.

There are much more poetic devices used in this poem, assonance has a great impact on the poems meaning. Assonance is a repetition of the sound of vowel throughout the stanza, and in the poem they have repeated a vowel throughout a line in a stanza. For example, “Not our bloom only, but our strength decay?” the vowel “O” is used throughout this line of the poem, creating assonance and a meaning to the poem. The word old is being repeated constantly all through the poem, Arnold doesn’t say old in every stanza, but he does use similar words to describe old, and answers the question which he asked in the beginning of the poem, which is “What is it to grow old?” Matthew Arnold has described the meaning of the poem through all these poetic devices, for example the imagery is used in the poem to give us an image of an elderly person and how they feel. All these poetic devices have contributed to the poem in an extremely well manner, and with these poetic devices, the meaning of the poem became clearer.

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