A Comparison of Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold and Prayer Before Brith by Louis MacNeice
'Dover Beach' by Matthew Arnold, written in 1867, and 'Prayer Before
Birth' written in 1951 by Louis MacNeice share many similarities
despite being written nearly on hundred years apart from each other.
This essay will explore the issues and ideas that both poems share, in
addition to drawing attention to some of the key differences.
'Dover Beach' is about the thoughts of a man on his honeymoon, who
shares his sentiments about the suffering of the world and that fact
that his 'love' is the only thing which is positive about his life.
'Prayer Before Birth' describes the thoughts of an unborn child,
making a plea to be kept safe against the dangers of the earth. Both
poems refer to, are about, are interested in, and are concerned with
criticism of the world, and distressed narrators; while some
differences can be observed. For example: The unborn child in 'Prayer
Before Birth' is certain of what the world is like, and he knows what
might happen to him. Matthew Arnold, on the other hand expresses
uncertainty in his poem. Even with slight differences, the predominant
themes /preoccupations of the two poems are the same.
It is clear that both poets feel disillusioned with life, and consider
that there is little in life which is joyful or cause for optimism.
Indeed, Matthew Arnold refers to a world which, "Hath really neither
joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for
pain." Louis MacNeice is much more specific in is list of things which
bring pain to individuals: the lectures of old men, the strife with
bureaucracy, the humiliation of lost love, the ingratitude of
children, and the ungratefulness of beggars, the sub doing to peer
pressure, the dryness of his life that might cause doom, and the
obstacles and intimidation that he might confront.
Matthew Arnold feels that mankind has always been aware of the
essential 'human misery' that exists in the world, and refers to
Sophocles to reinforce his point. It is appropriate for Arnold to have
used Sophocles in the second stanza, as Sophocles has always written
about human misery (his most famous tragic pieces being Oedipus Rex
and Antigone); therefore this proves Arnolds point that human misery
has been studied before.
The persona in Matthew Arnold's poem seems to spring in part form the
loss of spirituality in the world. He uses the metaphor 'The Sea of
Faith' to describe the 'withdrawal' of people's belief in religion.
Whereas it was once a 'bright girdle' is now in retreat and all that
is heard is the 'melancholy, long, withdrawing roar'
Although Louis MacNeice, makes a brief reference to religion, 'a white
light/ in the back of my mind to guide me', generally there doesn't
seem to be much help for the dishonesty and...