Its difficult to identify exact time of its origin.
“It is usually considered that it were Socrates who
introduced Seriousness as a Literary Term in
claimed in his most famous book
“LA ORIGION DE LA TRAGEDIE GRAVE “
THE ORIGION OF THE SERIOUS TRAGEDY
Philosophers and commentators have different
Views about seriousness.
“Seriousness is dullness”
Existentialist Philosopher Jean Paul Sartre
“Seriousness leads towards high facts of life”.
In the 19th century Mathew Arnold said that the most
important criteria used to judge the value of poem are
“high truth” and “high seriousness”
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), one of the greatest Victorian
poet and critic, was 'the first modern critic', and could be
called 'the critic's critic', being a champion not only of great
poetry, but of literary criticism itself. He started his career by
writing poetry and then turned to be a critic too. Arnold is
known to be a classicist among romantics.
Arnold was a lover of classical values. He
believed that a modern writer should be
aware that contemporary literature is built
on the foundations of the past, and should
contribute to the future by continuing a firm
Mathew Arnold’s First book
as a “ literary critic”
“ Preface to the Poems”
Before this he was a good
writer but not very famous, he
earned factual fame because of
his renowned work including
“The Study of the Poetry”
THE STUDY OF THE
His most famous piece of literary criticism is
his essay “The Study of Poetry.”
The essay was originally published as the
introduction to T. H. Ward’s anthology.
The English Poets (1880). It appeared later
in Essays in Criticism, Second Series.
In this work Arnold is fundamentally concerned with
poetry’s high destiny.
He believes that “mankind will discover that we have
to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us,
to sustain us” as science and philosophy will
eventually prove flimsy and unstable.
At the root of Arnold’s argument is his desire to
illuminate and preserve the poets he believes to be
the touchstones of literature, and to ask questions
about the value of poetry.
Poetry can fulfill its high function,
only if we keep a high standard for
For a poem to be of real
quality, it must possess
”higher truth" and a
Matthew Arnold does not
fully explain the term
‘high seriousness’ but it
can be related to
“extreme level of
Arnold considers poetry as an
“an application of ideas to life”.
If the application of ideas is powerful the
poetry will become great, having the quality
of “high seriousness.”
• Aristotle’s observation of superiority of
poetry over history having higher truth &
• The substance & matter of the best poetry
acquire significance through truth &
C.Day.Lewis wrote in his book
“ Gneithe de shaol an duine”
“The Elements of human life ”
“Seriousness is an attitude of gravity,
solemnity, persistence and earnestness towards
something considered to be of importance”
• As a critic Arnold being a moralist has very definite
ideas about what poetry should and should not be.
• A poetry of revolt against moral ideas, he says, is a
poetry of revolt against life, and a poetry of
indifference to moral ideas is a poetry of indifference
• Aristotle says that poetry is superior to History since
it bears the stamp of high seriousness and truth.
Arnold took up Aristotle's view, asserting that true
greatness in poetry is given by the truth and
seriousness of its subject matter, and by the high
diction and movement in its style and manner.
With this Scale of Judgment
Chaucer cannot be called a classic since,
unlike Homer, Virgil and Shakespeare, his
poetry does not have the high poetic
seriousness which Aristotle regards as a
mark of its superiority over the other arts.
Although Arnold’s views for Chaucer are:
• Chaucer’s power of fascination is enduring.
• His poetry is a real source of joy & strength.
• He will remain popular in the times to come.
• His language is a cause of difficulty for us.
Arnold’s Classic Poets
Arnold’s classic poets include:
Dante and Homer
“The superior character of truth and seriousness, in
the matter and substance of the best poetry, is
inseparable from the superiority of diction and
movement marking its style and manner.”
Geoffrey Chaucer falls short of Arnold’s “classic”
designation, lacks the “high seriousness” of classic
• Matthew Arnold talks of deriving pleasure from poetry.
• But according to critics he is actually biased towards
morality – a fact that is evident from his view that
poetry would replace religion.
Apart from all the negative criticism directed against
Arnold we cannot deny that he has very beautifully
related literature to life.