The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 2. The Strayed Reveller
Arnold’s first volume of poems was printed in 1849 under the title The Strayed Reveller, and other Poems, by A. This modest budget of verse, though it contained a few short poems not inferior in quality to the best of his subsequent work, attracted little public attention, and was withdrawn from circulation after only a few copies had been sold. The same fate befell his second published volume, Empedocles on Etna, and other poems, by A., which appeared in October, 1852. Dissatisfaction with the title-poem was the reason given by Arnold himself for the withdrawal of this second volume; but, fifteen years afterwards, at the instance of Robert Browning, he republished the poem. The sacrifice of Empedocles, however, seems to have been a kind of strategic retreat which enabled the poet, in the follwoing year, to publish boldly, under his own name, a new volume, with a preface defining his views upon some of the prime objects and functions of poetry. This volume (1853) included many of the poems already printed in its two predecessors, together with other which are shining examples of his more elaborate and considered work, such as Sohrab and Rustum and The Scholar-Gipsy. In 1855 appeared Poems by Matthew Arnold, Second Series, a volume with only two new poems, Balder Dead and Separation, but containing a further instalment of republications, including some fragments of Empedocles, from the earlier volumes. In 1858, Merope, a Tragedy, composed as a sort of “poetical diploma-piece”on his election to the Oxford professorship, was published. After an interval of nine years, his next, and his last, separate volume of poems—as distinguished from editions of his collected works—appeared under the title New Poems. In this volume, Empedocles made its reappearance in the company of such notable poems as Thyrsis, Rugby Chapel, Heine’s Grave, A Southern Night, Dover Beach and Obermann Once More. During the last twenty years of his life, with the exception of a few occasional pieces of the quality of Westminster Abbey and Geist’s Grave, Arnold produced nothing which added materially to his poetical reputation.