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Republic of Iraq / Ministry of

Higher Education and


Scientific Research /
University of Baghdad /
College of Arts / Department

Student Name: Mustafa


Amjed Jasim
Poetry Course
M.A Program. 2015 -2016

Buried Life

The Buried Life is a ninety-eight-line poem divided into seven stanzas of


varying length with an irregular rhyme scheme. A monologue in which a lover
addresses his beloved, the poem yearns for the possibility of truthful
communication with the self and with others. The dynamic of the poem focuses on
the transformation of a nameless sadness into the winding murmur of lifes
flow. The Buried Life offers remarkable poetic insight into a profound change in
the secret world of our inner identity, meaning, and purpose. The poem embraces a
timeless resonance that deserves contemplation. The energetic realm of the poem
offers the possibility of a new way of belonging to the natural flow of life
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172841 accessed in 23\12\2015.
Introduction
The meaning of a buried life is a loss of identity, an absence of meaning, and a
deprivation of purpose. Our life has become buried under the weight of imposed
requirements, expectations, and assumptions. We may appear successful and
confident by the deeper undercurrents of life. This success, however, is ultimately
contrived, unfulfilling, and artificial. The horror of being buried alive is symbolic
of our darkest fears. To be buried alive is to die a horrific death in which we are
slowly enclosed and suffocated by the weight of the earth closing in on us. In its
darkest expression, time slows down and our awareness expands but we remain
completely helpless to call out or save ourselves. All there is left to do is to feel the
cold damp earth gradually begin to enclose our body until death arrives. But not
even death comes to our aid.
Erving Goffman , a critic, insightfully reveals that the presentation of self in
everyday life is an act of theatre in which we learn to wear masks, manufacture
identities, create characters, and act out roles. Our social facade is inauthentic, and
many of us perform roles simply to survive the requirements of performance in the
modern world. Culture is a form of experimental theatre
http://brianalger.com/buried-life/ accessed in 23\12\2015.
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To live a life of contingency is a form of deep suffering. As we continue to wait for


just the right conditions to emerge that will allow us to reclaim our authenticity,
life passes us by. During the experience we begin to feel the true nature of time in
our body, and the presence of our own mortality begins to whisper to us from a
hidden place. As the pain of waiting intensifies, the feeling of impermanence
begins to grate and cut into our sensibilities. The awareness of our own buried life
is a gift in disguise. Deep personal change rarely comes without internal suffering;
the energy of suffering is ultimately the source of our release. And, as Arnold
beautifully expresses, the pain of a buried life ultimately clears the way for our
own renewal.
The Buried Life is on a heart that is unknowable and inaccessible, saying that
everyone has a similar heart becomes an image of isolation rather than community.
Only the individual can hope to know his or her own heart, and that in very rare
moments of grace. Sympathetic contact and affect in Arnold between poet and
reader, poem and reader, or the poet and his own self is buried life (Blair, 20).
Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
The Buried Life is an invitation to personal transformation. It originates in the
painful midlife realization of failing to have lived an authentic life coupled with the
reality of our own approaching mortality. To unlock could signal the resistance of
the heart to being opened. Our life becomes buried under the inertia of contingency
and a toxic sense of practicality; to have lived a buried life means we have lived a
provisional existence in which our deepest aspirations remain unlived. Some
readings talk about The Buried Life is the lack of communication seems to refer to
the act of writing the poem itself. Arnold as poet cannot convey what he feels, he
can only discuss the general impossibility of feeling (Cronin et al, 504).
I feel a nameless sadness oer me roll.
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Arnold invokes a nameless sadness, which is a sense of anguish that permeates


body and mind so magnificently that we are unable to cry. The nameless sadness is
the harbinger of our sudden awakening in the dark forest of a buried life. It is a
confusing and melancholy weight.
I knew they lived and moved
Trickd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of man, and alien to themselvesand yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!
To be trickd in disguises is to assume a false identity. The problem of having to
live according to a manufactured identity has reached epic proportions today. We
have become so completely enslaved by the external requirements of progress
and the insipid, limp narrative of modern survival that we have become alien to the
rest and alien to ourselves. Yet Arnold reminds us of an essential truth: we are one,
that the same heart beats in every human breast. http://brianalger.com/buried-life/
accessed in 23\12\2015.
Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby humanity would be
By what distractions he would be possessd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity
Arnold condemns the pursuits of his society as being largely childish and frivolous.
He characterizes his culture as being driven by frivolous distractions. The pursuit
of frivolous distractions has reached high proportions in todays society. The
toxicity of unsustainable consumption, rampant materialism, and intentional
environmental destruction is the modern destruction of the buried life.
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in usto know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
The soul is "our fire and restless force" and our ultimate source of wisdom. Our
soul exists on the very edge between what is possible to know, and what remains
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hidden on the other side of our awareness. Intuition is the language of soulful
experience. The pursuit of a vocation is our true occupation in life.
"A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his lifes flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.
The second half of life offers the recovery of "a lost pulse of feeling". We begin to
feel a different tempo in our sensibilities. The outward grasping and clinging that
caused our suffering begins to recede. Time is no longer mechanical and clockdriven; we return to the natural rhythms of lifes flow.
Nature is a healing force; when we isolate ourselves from the natural world our
body and mind suffer in its absence. The "winding murmur" of lifes flow imbues
and animates the meadows, sun, and the breeze (Blair, 30).
Themes
A poem of great frustration and sadness, The Buried Life yearns for an openness
which the poet fears that he will never achieve. Saddened by his own inability to
express his deepest, truest self, he turns to his beloved, thinking that in her
limpid eyes he can find true communion with another soul. He knows that
people fear to reveal themselves, suspecting that they will be ignored or, worse,
criticized for what they expose of themselves. Yet, his counterargument is that all
human beings contain essentially the same feelings and thus should be able to bare
their souls more freely than they do. Arnold is identifying the discrepancy between
the self who thinks that he is determining his fate, who thinks he can change his
own identity, and the self who seems to pursue life with blind uncertainty
while actually driving on with it [the buried life] eternally.
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Conclusion
The Buried Life naturally suggests the possibility that the "unregarded river of our
life" that runs "through the deep recesses of our breast" is akin to the blood and the
circulation. The dual movements of eddying and "driving" on in this poem could
relate to the beating of the heart as well as the motion of the stream. Comparing
human lives to a stream, to the flowing of water, is a traditional metaphorical
conception of human life, which Matthew Arnold uses to capture both the enigma
and the energy of life.

Works cited:
Blair, Kirstie. (2006). Victorian Poetry and the Culture of the Heart. United
States. Oxford University Press Inc., New York.
Cronin, Rechard& Chapman, Allison& H. Harrison, Antony. ( 2002)
Victorian Poetry. n.p. Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
http://brianalger.com/buried-life/ accessed in 23\12\2015.
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172841 accessed in 23\12\2015.