“force till right is ready”

December 4, 2006 11:33am CST
Once a month I make the drive to a college library to which I have a ‘Friends of the Library’ card that allows me to borrow any book in that library. For a yearly fee of $25 I have access to a world of books. Once a month I take back 6-8 books and borrow another 6-8 books. When I get home I scan all of my new acquisitions and eventually read bits and pieces of several. Occasionally I hit a bonanza and this last visit was, I think, such an occasion. I borrowed Matthew Arnold’s book “Essays in Criticism”. I have only read a few pages in the introduction but find that I cannot go two paragraphs without seeing several intellectual ‘gems’ that I must pursue with gusto. Matthew Arnold 1822-1888 had four significant literary periods in his life. In the 1850s we was a poet, in the 60s a literary critic, in the 70s religious and educational writings, and in 80s he returned to criticism and essays. T. S. Eliot once said “in one’s prose reflection one may be legitimately occupied with ideals, whereas in the writing of verse, one can deal only with actuality.” Arnold’s poetic efforts reflect that opinion. He records himself as a sick individual wondering in a sick and bifurcated world “one dead/ the other powerless to be born”. In one of his essays he writes “Force and right are the governors of this world; force till right is ready.” He was contrasting the French Revolution with the English Revolution. The French struggle “found undoubtedly its motive-power in the intelligence of men. And not in their practical sense;” Whereas the English Revolution found its motive-power in the questions, is it legal? or is it according to conscience?
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