Poem introduction

Matthew Arnold's 'Sohrab and Rustum' displays his narrative skills and his talent for scene-setting. It tells how two celebrated warriors – father and son – are set against one another, neither knowing the other's identity, in single combat to decide the outcome of war between Persians and Tartars. Here are the final 35 lines of this 900-line poem, where the victorious father, Rustum, lies down beside the body of his dead son Sohrab, beside the Oxus River – which flows on, indifferent to humanity, to the Aral Sea.

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Over the years I’ve become increasingly interested in the lyrical nature of poetry. I find that the more I’ve taken in...

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