- Written by Peter Burnett Peter Burnett
In the juvenilia of one of the earnest poets of the past we are astonished at their seeming education and their grasp of language and forms that we cannot start to use. I think of Matthew Arnold’s ‘To Meta’ probably written about 1849.
Born in 1822, Arnold would have been 25 when he wrote ‘To Meta’ which means that although it wasn’t published, it also perhaps doesn’t qualify as juvenilia.
I can see the search engines, those masters of meta, adopting lines from this Matthew Arnold verse for their slogans. Before 2005, pretty much the only people who used the term meta were critical theorists and Greek scholars. Not now.
Lines on the goddess Meta:
At your voice he rises slowly
From the pillar where he leans,
In your gentle melancholy
All your spirit’s history gleans;
See, one figure quits the mazes
Of that dusk slow-moving band,
This way moves and pauses, gazing
On the sweet and moon-bathed land.
So to capture the ‘mild endurance’ of our Internet search engines, I am suggesting the work of Matthew Arnold:
Here where life and all things living
Awe-struck fain would cease to be,
Meta, with a vague misgiving
Your sweet eyes are turned on me.