Contrasting Worlds in Dover Beach and Quiet Work
Tree Works Cited The poems of Matthew Arnold always seem to portray two contrasting worlds. In this essay I will examine his poems more deeply and show what these two worlds are, what they express. I will also attempt to see his work in relation to its social and historical context.
One of the two worlds to be found in Arnold's poems is a disappointing or pessimistic world, while the other is a heavenly, ideal world. In most o f his poems the disappointing world is the real world, the actual world. In 'Quiet Work' he complains that 'a thousand discords ring', expressing 'man's fitful uproar'. This is his comment on the world around him which, like the negative world of the poem, thinks itself 'too great for haste, too high for rivalry'. Such extracts describe the rude ugliness of humanity.
In its historical context, this can be seen as a commentary on political events of the time - the February Revolution in France, the Chartist movement in England, and so on.1 He disliked these noisy protests and was very disappointed by them. He longed for a world without 'toil' or 'vain turmoil' and by comparing these two worlds he sought to make people notice the failings of the world they lived in.
This can be seen clearly in 'Dover Beach'. Again, Arnold criticizes the age in which he lives. Phrases such as 'a darkling plain' and 'Ignorant armies clash by night' show the depressing reality, and the 'grating roar' of the sea 'gives the reader a sense of 'the misery which occurs and reoccurs in human history'.2
One of the main things that Arnold wanted to say is that this real world is unstable. We can say so from the following:
for the world which seems,
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful so new
In this poem. he can see clearly the real world, in which people lose their goals and their trust and cannot find peace and...