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Longing by Matthew Arnold

Longing is a typical love poem of being in delight which is filled with sadness and musing melancholy. Matthew Arnold was an English critic of the Victorian era.

Longing by Matthew Arnold Summary

Here the narrator is longing for his beloved whom he sees in his dreams every day and wish to get her in front of him in reality. He forms an image of her in his dreams and feels that she will wash away all his worries and desolation. His heart is longing to see her after a weary day.

Longing Matthew Arnold Sketch
Longing Matthew Arnold Sketch

The poet’s feeling for his beloved is very deep and intense and his primary concern is that he cannot see her during the daytime. So he wants her to come in his dreams at night so that the thought of hers will make him joyful during the day.

His heart has a flickering desire to sense her presence at night, “For so the night will more than pay/ The hopeless longing of the day”.

The poet considers the woman as a darling from a heavenly place who has visited in his dreams a thousand times but never came to him physically, “Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times/ A messenger from radiant climes”.

His heart is wrenching to see her in actuality. The poet has compared the woman with meteor showers. Meteor showers bring light on earth and are admired by everyone all over the world.

She brings happiness to the poet’s life. She belongs from a new world where she brings smile and relief to others the way she brought the corresponding emotion to him, “A smile on the new world, and be as kind to others as to me”.

This can be a reason the poet cannot get her in person, however, he wishes she spreads the kindness she carries in her heart on everyone.

After a daylong wait, now the poet wants his dream to turn into reality and she comes ahead of him physically. He wants her to comb his hair, kiss him passionately and ask him the reason of his suffering, “My love why sufferest thou”.

This means that love cannot die even after getting parted, considering the amount of pain and hopelessness one carries in his heart.

The poet ends by pleading her once again to visit him in his dreams. This shows a feeling of being hopeful, that she will be able to rid him of his sorrow. 

Longing Poem Analysis

The main literary action of the poem is rhythm and rhyme. Each stanza rhymes with each other. Matthew Arnold is the narrator himself in the poem. The main motive behind the poem is unknown but the title of the poem is directly related to its theme that is longing.

The poet feels extremely sad the entire day and longs to see his beloved during that time and craves for her during the night time to get a glimpse of her in his dream. He longs to get her comfort, her love and longs to see her once.

The tonality of the poem to its reader is hopeful. The hope that he will see her and get him out of his depressed condition. The mood is also little pitiful as the reader feels pity for the narrator and wishes that she appears to him and gives him all the desire he wants.

The poem shows various emotions and portrays the image of longing in a true sense.