Change – Analysis of ‘Growing Old’ by Matthew Arnold Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 4 July 2016

Change – Analysis of ‘Growing Old’ by Matthew Arnold

Growing OldWhat 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 limbGrow 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 lifeMellowed and softened as with sunset-glow,A golden day’s decline!’Tis not to see the worldAs 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 daysAnd not once feel that we were ever young.

It is to add, immuredIn the hot prison of the present, monthTo month with weary pain.

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

It is -last stage of all -When we are frozen up within, and quiteThe phantom of ourselves,To hear the world applaud the hollow ghostWhich blamed the living man.

Matthew ArnoldGrowing oldTitle: Growing oldText type: PoemComposer: Arnold, Matthew’Growing old’ is a poem which shows the changes everyone will eventually go through when ageing. It explores a person’s feelings towards old age, and how they change as a feeling of being old takes over.

The composer sees growing old as much more than most people, he sees it as a loss of spirit and soul, and the last stage of humanity whereas many people associate growing old with a loss of attraction and energy. This can be seen when he addresses the old person as a ‘hollow ghost’ in the last verse.

There are two aspects of change shown in this poem. A person can change physically such as appearance and can also change mentally such as thoughts and feelings. Through age, our physical change is easily observed and is beyond our control. As we step into old age, we realise that we are less remarkable.

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.

The composer writes about the physical change which occurs through old age, but suggests that that is not all that changes. The composer also pinpoints on the desolation and tiresomeness suffered through the process of old age and creates a feeling that it is almost the end of the road for a person’s life, “A golden day’s decline!”Even though an old person is still living, their spirit no longer remains. How the old person now looks at life is very different to how he/she looked at life when he/she was young, looking backwards at life as opposed to looking forward.

‘Tis not to see the worldAs from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,And heart profoundly stirred;And weep, and feel the fullness of the past,The years that are no more!The composer suggests that living in old age is tedious and tiresome, quietly waiting day after day for the same thing. Our spirit which was once shining brightly is now like a dimmed candle, waiting, slowly, to be blown out. At old age, all we have left to live off of are the memories of a time when things changed for us, a life which was more hopeful than the one we are now living, where we are always awaiting a change in our life.

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

In this poem, old age feels as though a trap is placed on us, keeping us away from opportunity and joy. This is felt when we begin to feel old. We are only released from this trap when we let go of this world, being at the “last stage” of humanity. “The phantom of ourselves”, suggests that we are what we want to be, if we set out to be lonely in our old age, we will only expect to be lonely.

It is -last stage of all -When we are frozen up within, and quiteThe phantom of ourselves,To hear the world applause the hollow ghostWhich blamed the living man.

From this text, I have learnt that old age is not what affects us. It is our mentality that affects us the most. Even when it is close to the end of the journey for us, we can still choose the type of life we want to live. We can choose to have a joyous end from this world, so it doesn’t have to be long days of “weary pain”.

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