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The Buried Life By: Matthew Arnold

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1 The Buried Life By: Matthew Arnold
Group G:

2 A Little Bit of HISTORY!!! During this period there was a move towards factory labour. That is, the people moved to working collectively rather than working in a more solitary environment, as they had for hundreds of years. They lost a significant amount of their personal freedoms in this change. This loss of freedom, and dramatic change in working situations would surely contribute to a feeling that they had deviated from their true, original course. Indeed, it is likely that the upheaval of the age contributed greatly to the population's feeling of lack of an original course. Feeling constantly in flux undoubtedly forces people to believe that their lives are not going as they should be, and that they have deviated from how they were meant to exist. It would also lead them to believe that an alternative, though impossible to achieve, exists.

3 As England changed, people rapidly moved to the city, in order to take advantage of new economic opportunities, or because that was the only place they could get work. This urbanization meant that people were living in close proximity to other people they would not, under normal circumstances, have ever met. This sort of mingling leads to a sharing of ideas, and could very easily lead to the knowledge of their buried life. When the people were encountering these new ideas, they could very well have come to realize that their life is not what they would prefer, and not what is natural and desirable. They would also realize that they are confined by forces significantly beyond their control, such as the class structure, their economic status, or any number of other factors, obviously contributing to the realization that their original course will remain unattainable, buried, forever.

4 During this period there was also significant religious change
During this period there was also significant religious change. As science continued to advance at a rapid pace, religious ideas that had held sway for hundreds of years were proven to be unsustainable. By having their religious ideas challenged, many people would have felt unanchored, and be brought to feeling restless. The line “After the knowledge of our buried life” clearly refers to this phenomenon. As the peoples' awareness grew, and circumstances changed, so to did their desire to uncover the way life was meant to be. It was a combination of all of these factors that leads us to the complex and intertwined meanings in Mathew Arnold’s poem, The Buried Life. Although we are only dealing with a short excerpt, there is still much to be said line by line, and word by word.

5 Lines 47-50 There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life; A thirst to spend our fire and restless force In tracking out our true, original course;

6 How these lines portray the “Buried Life”
Simply it means that there is this desire, which is buried within each person, creating one hidden (buried) life and will remain such because each person is trapped (buried) in their social status Therefore, there is one buried life buried inside another life which itself is buried in the confines of society.

7 Interpretations Line by Line

8 There rises an unspeakable desire
Line 1: What was written: There rises an unspeakable desire Interpretation: There is a longing in all people that can never and will never be spoken

9 After the knowledge of our buried life;
Line 2: What was written: After the knowledge of our buried life; Interpretation: All eventually come to realize that each is a prisoner in their social status

10 Line 3 What was written: A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
Interpretation: There is a violent drive in each person

11 Line 4 What was written: Interpretation:
In tracking out our true, original course;  Interpretation: In discovering what life truly should be

12 Although there is meaning portrayed in each line, there is an even heavier additional meaning in almost every word. The slides provided next contain the Old English definitions, our interpretations, metaphors and Victorian and modern day images as they pertain to the buried life.

13 Unspeakable

14 Old English Definition
Unspeakable - Incapable of being expressed in words; inexpressible, indescribable, ineffable. Unspeakable means the same now as it did in In this instance, Arnold seeks to describe man’s desire, a desire for knowledge of a certain issue which has not been sought after until now. It is hard for him to paint a clear portrait of this feeling, thus it is unspeakable.

15 Unspeakable Group interpretation: indescribable in terms of never being able to be expressed because it is socially impossible and damning to do so. Modern day imagery: Shows the inability to speak without care of if it is desired or not

16 Desire

17 Old English Definition
Desire - 1. The fact or condition of desiring; that feeling or emotion which is directed to the attainment or possession of some object from which pleasure or satisfaction is expected; longing, craving; a particular instance of this feeling, a wish. 3. Longing for something lost or missed; regret. Obs. 4. A wish as expressed or stated in words; a request, petition. 5. transf. An object of desire; that which one desires or longs for. (Originally only contextual). “Desire” is most associated with emotion, and in this case it is an adjective; it describes the tone of the poem. As a noun it is the subject of these four lines. As the tone, Arnold longs for and requests the reader to consider this wish to know better the “buried life.” He uses “our” three times in these four lines to better persuade his readers of his earnestness in this endeavor to wake/arise from the “buried life.” This idea of inclusion among the classes would probably alienate some readers but the “our” use indicates his wish for all to work toward a common goal. Although definition 3 is now obsolete, it is still applicable in this case because it was a current definition during the Victorian Era. In noun form, desire is a state of being; definition 5 is the best description of this poem’s usage.

18 Desire Group interpretation: longing of how badly people would like to uncover their buried life that is set deep within their souls. Modern day imagery: Looking out or in upon something that cannot be obtained

19 Knowledge

20 Old English Definition
Knowledge – I.1.a. Acknowledgement, confession. b. Acknowledgement or recognition of the position or claims (of any one).  II. Senses derived from the verb KNOW, in its later uses. * The fact or condition of knowing. 5. a. The fact of knowing a thing, state, etc., or (in general sense) a person; acquaintance; familiarity gained by experience. 8. a. Acquaintance with a fact; perception, or certain information of, a fact or matter; state of being aware or informed; consciousness (of anything). The object is usually a proposition expressed or implied: e.g. the knowledge that a person is poor, knowledge of his poverty. 9. a. Intellectual acquaintance with, or perception of, fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension; the fact, state, or condition of understanding. The first listed meanings above are now obsolete but there is no reason to believe I.1.b would not have been understood in the nineteenth century. It probably is the most applicable definition according to the poem’s theme, if using an obsolete meaning. Of the more modern uses of “knowledge,” definition II.5.a may be used or more appropriately, II.8.a. Arnold uses this word to bring attention to the “buried life” in that people perhaps unconsciously and socially were aware of the class differences but now there was an increased need to openly recognize them and perhaps change.

21 Knowledge Group interpretation: the suddenness of the onset of insight into ones own life. Modern day imagery: A light bulb suddenly shining light to thoughts that were once shrouded in darkness

22 Buried Life

23 Old English Definition
Buried - 1. a. Laid in a grave, interred. b. Laid, sunk, or concealed under ground. buried treasure; also fig. and attrib. “Buried” is rather simple; in this poem it is used figuratively to create the image of something desirable is concealed. Symbolically, Arnold may mean definition 1.b rather than 1.a as 1.a projects the idea of this life he is yearning for is dead or unnatural. (Though perhaps class change/life can be unnatural.) Using the image of “buried treasure” life is buried underneath the layers of historical class consciousness, waiting to be unearthed.

24 Buried Life Group Interpretation: Being a prisoner/captive in one’s own life Modern Imagery: Captivity from which there is no escape or release

25 Thirst

26 Old English Definition
Thirst - 1. a. The uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of drink; also, the physical condition resulting from this want. 2. fig. A vehement desire (of (arch.), for, after something, to do something). The most obvious definition of “thirst” would be 2 and it is the best of the two; however, reflecting upon the use of “uneasy or painful sensation” used in 1, both are applicable. “Desire” is reiterated here as “thirst” and it is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by this that has roused Arnold to seek to know more. Figuratively he is thirsty for action and is spurred into his quest for understanding of this “buried life.” Or it can be part of the idea that he is philosophically thirsty and requires water—the water of Life.

27 Thirst Group interpretation: Desperately requiring
Modern imagery: Like water is required for life, so is the need to require all that the soul longs for.

28 Spend

29 Old English Definition
Spend – 2. absol. To exercise, make, or incur expenditure of money, goods, means, etc. 3. To expend or employ (labour, material, thought, etc.) in some specified way. 5. a. To use up; to exhaust or consume by use; to wear out. b. To bring to a violent end; to destroy; to consume by destruction or wasting; to disperse or dissipate; to reduce or convert into something. 8. To make use of; to use or employ. Now rare. “Spend” brings to mind the idea of trade, but Arnold did not mean to trade his “fire and restless force” for anything. Listed above are a few descriptions of “spend;” the first two and last are more applicable than 5.a or b. He seeks to exercise, expend, use or employ his fire (energy) in his pursuit of the “buried life.” The image of spend as “to bring to a violent end” does in some ways appear more appropriate for fire and force as does the idea of “to wear out” as fire will burn itself out eventually. With this word choice, Arnold seems to unconsciously acknowledge that every revolution or change has its end.

30 Spend Group interpretation: to employ labor, thought, words, time, as on some object or in some proceeding Modern imagery: Portrays the same type of time and labor Sisyphus “spends” forever and never completing his task in his afterlife.

31 Fire

32 Old English Definition
Fire – 13. a. A burning passion or feeling, esp. of love or rage. b. Ardor of temperament; ardent courage or zeal; fervor, enthusiasm, spirit. c. Liveliness and warmth of imagination, brightness of fancy; power of genius, vivacity; poetic inspiration. Used here as a metaphor for the zeal for life, especially that of Arnold’s idealist Hellenism. He wanted the people to realize the principles espoused by the Greeks in their use of art and aesthetics. Fire is a primal element and Arnold’s word use implies a return to this primal state or rather a return to “the way we were.” It is also one of the most visible elements and this suggests a need for obvious action from the people in order to change society. Fire is energy as well and Arnold asks his audience to spend their energy toward the realization of the poem’s goals.

33 Fire Group interpretation: violent energy
Modern imagery: Burning of every fiber towards a single conclusion.

34 Restless Force

35 Old English Definition
Force - I. Strength, power. 1. a. Physical strength, might, or vigour, as an attribute of living beings. 3. a. Power or might (of a ruler, realm, or the like); esp. military strength or power. 4. concr. a. A body of armed men, an army. 5. a. Physical strength or power exerted upon an object; esp. the use of physical strength to constrain the action of persons; violence or physical coercion. To make force: to use violence to. “Force” to our modern minds has a military connotation among others and it did during Arnold’s time as well. While he was not necessarily calling for military or violent action as the impetus of change, “fire” and “force” make a very powerful connection and perhaps unconsciously echo the fears of revolution many had. Up until this point in these four lines, it appeared that Arnold was calling for philosophical action because desire, knowledge and fire are not physical action. But with the addition of “force,” he introduces the idea of being more than armchair activists and asks readers to be a part of the social transformation.

36 Restless Force Group interpretation: undying inherent ability for change Modern imagery: Like the constant blowing winds that move the sands in the desert, new dunes are always created.

37 Tracking

38 Old English Definition
Track - I. 1. a. trans. To follow up the track or footsteps of; to trace the course or movements of; to pursue by or as by the track left; with down, out, up, to follow up or trace until found or caught. Also fig. Although there are several other meanings or at least directions “track” may take, because Arnold followed the word by “out” (“tracking out”) it is best to use the above definition. It is obvious he means to pursue “our true, original course” rather than any other meaning of the word.

39 Tracking Group interpretation: to intensively explore and pursue a path or course Modern imagery: Following a fixed route that one finally finds when searching or upon accident

40 True

41 Old English Definition
True - A. adj.  2.b. In more general sense: Of the right kind, such as it should be, proper. While “true” is generally used in the stead of “loyal” or “faithful,” in this instance Arnold used it to signify the course of life “as it should be.” He pictures a society in which life is a reflection of art and aesthetics; this is the “true” course man should take. 

42 True Group interpretation: being in accordance to the actual state of conditions of how life should be Modern imagery: Life as creation intended it to be without bias.

43 Original Course

44 Old English Definition
Original – A. adj. 1. a. That is the origin or source of something; from which something springs, proceeds, or is derived; primary. 2. a. Belonging to the beginning or earliest stage of something; existing at or from the first; earliest, first in time. In his work Hebraism and Hellenism, Arnold explores the class-bound “ordinary selves” that he wished man to rise above. He defined the three classes in the following ways: “the ‘Barbarian’ aristocracy who value individualism, courage, and athleticism over intellect and sensitivity; the middle-class Philistines who stubbornly resist new ideas; and the dangerously ‘raw and half-developed’ working class he calls simply ‘the Populace’” (1589). These three classes represent the ways that man has separated his inward self from his outward self; by turning his thoughts and efforts inward, man would be able to remedy much of what is wrong with society and create a more peaceful world as was in the Victorians’ idealistic Greece. Essentially man needs to return to his roots to be reborn (resurrected from the “buried life”).

45 Original Course Group interpretation: The way of life that should have been attained (would exist in nature) as apposed to what it had become (boundaries placed on it by society) Modern imagery: The road less traveled for it is surrounded by mountainous barriers.

46 So what is buried life? In short, Arnold seems to think that all social classes are buried within the confines of society; however, the desire to unbury themselves is itself buried which creates another buried life within the life that they are all buried in. The idea creates a picture of a grave that has been covered three-fold ultimately prohibiting anything to be resurrected from these inner problems.

47 Fin

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