M Matthew Arnold

Longing by Matthew Arnold

‘Longing’ by Matthew Arnold is a poem directed at someone’s lover. They ask this person to visit them in their dreams since they can’t be together during the day.

The piece uses direct and easy-to-understand language to describe how much the speaker wants to see the person he loves. His desperation comes through with little need for interpretation. Most readers are going to relate to the lines of ‘Longing’ in one way or another.

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.


Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me!


Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth,
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, My love why sufferest thou?


Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Longing by Matthew Arnold

Longing by Matthew Arnold


Summary

‘Longing’ by Matthew Arnold asks the speaker’s lover to come to him in his dreams and fulfill the longing he experiences during the day.

The four stanzas of this poem are fairly simple. They’re directed at the speaker’s lover, someone he’s separated from. He can’t fulfill his longing and therefore has resorted to begging this person to visit him in his dreams. It is only these imagined encounters that are going to make the days bearable, he thinks. The poem repeats its first stanza at the end of the piece, reiterating everything the speaker previously asserted.

Themes

Throughout ‘Longing,’ the poet engages with themes of need and relationships. His speaker has an unfulfilled need directed at a specific person. He can’t shake off his thoughts about this person, something that’s making his day-to-day life difficult to endure. His days are haunted by thoughts of the person he loves, and he hopes, through his dreams, they will visit him, and he can relieve some of the pressure that’s driving him to desperation.

Structure and Form

‘Longing’ by Matthew Arnold is a four-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABB CCDD and so on, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The poet also chose to use a specific meter. Most of the lines are written in what is known as iambic tetrameter. This means that the lines contain four sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed. There are several moments in which this pattern is broken—for example, the first line of the poem.

Literary Devices

Throughout ‘Longing,’ Arnold makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:

  • Caesura: can be seen when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, “And part my hair, and kiss my brow.” This is a great example because it uses punctuation and the natural pause in the middle of the metrical line.
  • Metaphor: occurs when the poet makes a comparison between two things without using “like” or “as.”
  • Refrain: This can be seen when the poet repeats the same phrase exactly. For example, “Come to me in my dreams, and then” begins the first and last stanzas.
  • Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza as well as lines three and four of the second stanza.


Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

Come to me in my dreams, and then

By day I shall be well again!

For so the night will more than pay

The hopeless longings of the day.

In the first stanza of ‘Longing,’ the speaker begins by asking that the listener, someone he loves, come to him in his dreams. He spends his days longing for them so, if only they’d come to his dreams, he’d be able to make it through the more painful days. This is a fairly simple request and one that most readers are easily going to be able to interpret. He speaks clearly with direct words and a need that comes through immediately.

Stanza Two

Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
Amd smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me!

In the second stanza, the speaker goes on to say that the listener should “come” as they did “a thousand times / A messenger from radiant climes.” He’s now comparing the person he loves to someone heavenly, someone that makes his life far better than it was previously. This person has a kind personality, and he’s seen them bestow kindness on others before. This is part of their appeal.

Stanza Three

Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth,
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, My love! why sufferest thou?

He asks again that the listener come. This time, as they “never cam’st in sooth.” Come now, they add and let his dream be the better for it. IF only she’d come to him, then he’d stop suffering. He imagines that she’d say, “My love! why sufferest thou?” as if she has no idea that his love for her has been causing him pain. She has a soothing presence, and it’s clear the speaker thinks he’ll be happier if she’s around.

Stanza Four

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longings of the day.

In the next lines, the speaker goes on to repeat the same line that started the first stanza. He asks again that she come to him in his dreams. This will allow the day to improve for the night’s pleasures. The following lines are also an exact repetition of those used in the first stanza. This piece is not complex, nor does the speaker ask much of the listener within it. Arnold expresses a sentiment that a great many readers are likely going to be able to relate to.

FAQs

What is the mood of ‘Longing?’

The mood will vary depending on a reader’s experiences. One may find themselves feeling soothed or understood. Another reader might feel nostalgia or longing. Such is often the case with poetry, especially when it is as unspecified as this poem is.

Who is the speaker of ‘Longing?’

The speaker is someone, likely a man, who is longing for someone he loves. He directs his words to that person, asking that they join him in his dreams. He’s separated from this person for an unknown reason. Perhaps they died, are no longer interested in him, or are separated from him.

What is the tone of ‘Longing?’

The tone is desperate and filled with longing. The speaker wants nothing more than to see the person he loves in his dreams. This experience, he thinks, will soothe and improve his experience during the day when his longing for them is at its worst.

Why did Matthew Arnold write ‘Longing?’

Arnold likely wrote this piece in order to express his own longing for a relationship or to convey a familiar sentiment. Many readers are likely going to be able to relate to this poem in one way or another.

What is the meaning of ‘Longing?’

The meaning is that through dreams, one might improve their experience during the day, or at least that’s what the speaker wants to believe. If he can see the person he loves during his dreams, then he’ll stop being so depressed during the day.


Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘Longing’ should also consider reading other Matthew Arnold poems. For example:

  • Buried Lifea monologue through which a distressed speaker analyzes his complicated feelings about his inner life.
  • Dover Beach’ – dramatic monologue lamenting the loss of true Christian faith in England during the mid-1800s as science captured the minds of the public.
  • Growing Old’ – a piece full of questions, answers, and descriptions of what old age is actually like.

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About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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