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date: 19 September 2020

Empedocles on Etna 

The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature
Dinah BirchDinah Birch, Katy HooperKaty Hooper

A dramatic poem by Matthew *Arnold, published anonymously 1852. Arnold portrays the philosopher *Empedocles, said to have committed suicide by throwing himself into the crater of Etna, on the verge of his last act: his physician friend Pausanias tries to cheer him. Empedocles expresses his intellectual doubts, dismissing the reassuring platitudes of religion and philosophy; man's yearning for joy, calm, and enlightenment is in itself no proof that these things exist or can be attained. He turns Pausanias away, grieves over his own ‘dwindling faculty of joy’, concludes that he is man no more, but ‘a naked, eternally restless mind’, and finally, in a kind of triumph, concluding that at least he has been ever honest in his doubts, hurls himself to his death.... ...

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