Dover Beach

Discussion in 'Poetry and Song' started by VirginiaHuguenot, Jan 7, 2005.

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  1. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    One of my favorite poems as an English major in college was "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). It deals somewhat with loss of faith. Does anyone care to comment on the religious aspect of this poem? I have included the text and some analysis below.


    By Matthew Arnold

    The sea is calm tonight,
    The tide is full, the moon lies fair
    Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
    Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
    Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
    Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
    Only, from the long line of spray
    Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
    Listen! you hear the grating roar
    Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
    At their return, up the high strand,
    Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
    With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
    The eternal note of sadness in.

    Sophocles long ago
    Heard it on the Agean, and it brought
    Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
    Of human misery; we
    Find also in the sound a thought,
    Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

    The Sea of Faith
    Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
    Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
    But now I only hear
    Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
    Retreating, to the breath
    Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
    And naked shingles of the world.

    Ah, love, let us be true
    To one another! for the world, which seems
    To lie before us like a land of dreams,
    So various, so beautiful, so new,
    Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
    Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night.

  2. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    *bump* any thoughts?
  3. just_grace

    just_grace Puritan Board Freshman


    I love tranquillity...

    J'aime la tranquilité, je la cherche avec toute ma force...
  4. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member


    I have not thoght about Arnold in many years. I read this and other works by him back before the grey hair, children and 30 pounds.

    That is literature!
  5. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    :lol: Matthew Arnold made a big impact on me my freshman year in college. He was a gifted poet who lived in an age when Western society was departing from the old Christian landmarks, ie., the rise of Darwinism, literary criticism, etc. The "Sea of Faith" was retreating and hence he found himself on a "darkling plain." The romance and beauty of the poem and the place are par excellence; the melancholy acceptance of a post-Christian world without joy or love or light makes me ache for the man who can stand as such a beautiful portion of God's creation and be an agnostic. Yet God will be glorified in all his works.

  6. just_grace

    just_grace Puritan Board Freshman

    Coming soon...

    No eye has seen, no ear heard, what God 'has' prepared for those that love Him.

    If that verse does not confirm TULIP then nothing will.

    Sorry if its a deviation from the post.

    Beauty to come... Praise God for all of His creation.
  7. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    You are so gushy. To bad you couldn't have come for a few beers this week. We could have been really gushy together.:D

    [Edited on 8-20-2005 by puritancovenanter]
  8. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    :lol: [​IMG]
  9. Ex Nihilo

    Ex Nihilo Puritan Board Senior

    This is a very interesting poem... One thing I notice about this poem is that, having lost a sense of absolutes brought by faith, Arnold has then to recenter his worldview around another person ("Ah, love, let us be true / To one another!"). He has to have some anchoring point... and yet, fidelity to a mate becomes an entirely arbitrary thing when it is the only absolute. (Why that one person? Why not another? Why not several people? Why not change partners later, if it feels good?) He's imposing an artificial center because his God-created mind just can't deal with the uncertainty that is the logical product of his beliefs.

    I remember once writing a short essay in my Victorian literature class comparing the (in my opinion) unintellectual agnosticism of Matthew Arnold with the unintellectual sort of blind leap of faith that Tennyson seemed to demonstrate in In Memoriam. (I think the hedonistic escapism of FitzGerald's "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" fit in there somewhere.) On the whole, it was all, I think, a rather sad foreshadowing of postmodernism.
  10. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Good points, Evie.

    It should be noted that Arnold wrote this poem on his honeymoon at Dover in 1851. He was speaking of his new bride in the poem. The poem -- for reasons of which I am unaware -- was kept "secret" until its publication in 1867.
  11. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    How do you get all of this out of the above?

    [Edited on 8-20-2005 by puritancovenanter]
  12. Ex Nihilo

    Ex Nihilo Puritan Board Senior


    I've been in classes where the poem was discussed and read articles on it. And after reading a little bit of literary criticism, you get comfortable making unprovable assertions about literature, because you realize everyone else is doing it, too, and that your opinion may be slightly less ludicrous than some.
  13. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    So it is kind of a free for all license to interpret imagery in words. I like gushy imagery. But I just read it for what it says. I am kinda like that. A lot that I have read tends to be dark and despairing. So I haven't spent much time in poetry.

    [Edited on 8-21-2005 by puritancovenanter]
  14. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Lord have mercy! Where might a guy find a woman like you? For real, I imagine we could sit and talk about philosophy and theology for hours and hours into the wee hours of the morning.
  15. Ex Nihilo

    Ex Nihilo Puritan Board Senior

    LOL, thank you. I have done that on occasion. Does AIM count?
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Just get to know her. She was holding back right there. Evie has (subconsciously) taught me many key insights on literary theory. In fact, and she would be uncomfortable hearing me say this, she has really helped me in a lot of my theological/apologetic formulation. I knew that if I phrased something stupidly or poorly, she would gently point out the flaws therein. After a while, I became more polished in my formulation/presentation. She is one of the smartest people I know.
  17. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I don't doubt her intelligence. That is why I sheepishly asked her. I feel like Isaiah. I have unclean lips. That includes grammar.
  18. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Your welcome. :)

    I would love to chat with you on AIM! :) My AIM handle is...can you guess..."apologist4him". :lol:
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