Matthew Arnold one of foremost critic of 19th century is often regarded as father of modern English criticism . Arnold's work as literary critic started with "Preface to poems " in 1853 .It is a kind of manifesto of his critical creed . It reflects classicism as well his views on grand poetic style . Arnold was classicist who loved art , literature and Hellenic culture .
His most famous piece of literary criticism is in his essay " The study of poetry ". In this work he talks about poetry's " high destiny " . He believes " mankind will discover that we have to turn poetry to interpret life for us ,to console us ,to sustain us " .
Arnold lived in a materialistic world where advancement of science has led society in a strange darkness . Importance of religion was submerged . People were becoming fact seekers .A gap was being developed and Arnold believed poetry could fill that gap .In his words "Our religion has materialised itself in the fact , and the fact is now failing it .But for poetry the idea is everything ,the rest is world of illusion , of Divine illusion " .Arnold wrote " without poetry our science will appear incomplete ;and most of what now passes with religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry .
He had definite aim in writing poetry .It was " criticism of life " By " criticism of life " he meant " noble and profound application of ideas of life ". He said poetry should serve a greater purpose instead of becoming a mere medium of gaining pleasure and appreciating beauty .
According to him the best poetry is criticism of life , abiding laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty .By poetic truth he meant representation of life in true way . By poetic beauty he meant manner and style of poetry . He said poet should be a man with enormous experience . His intellect should be highly developed by means of enormous reading and deep critical thinking .
Arnold says poetry is an " application of ideas to life " . If the application of ideas is powerful the poetry will become great . He also lays emphasis on quality of " high seriousness "
It comes with sincerity which poet feels for his subject. Many critics disagreed Arnold ,T.S.Elliot a great poet himself disagreed his view by saying Arnold's view is "frigid to anyone who has felt the full surprise and elevation of new experience in poetry " .Arnold classic poets include Dante , Milton , Homer and Shakespeare . He quotes famous line of Milton
" Nor thy life nor hate ; but what thou livest
Live well : how ling or short , permit to heaven" .
According to Arnold Geoffrey Chaucer was not a classic poet as he lacked " high seriousness " .
Arnold said poetry should deal with ideas not facts . Ideas should be moral . He said moral should not be taken in narrow sense . He says " poetry of revolt against life ; a poetry of indifference towards moral idea is a poetry of indifference towards life ".