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Dover Beach, An Analysis

1729 words - 7 pages

Dover Beach is located in England, on the eastern shores near France. It is also the setting, and title of a poem written by a well educated man named Matthew Arnold, who is well known as the first modern critic of poetry. According to an article in The Literary Encyclopedia, Arnold was a very spiritual person, but claimed poetry prevailed over philosophy, science, and religion, due to the principle that those things are based on facts, which can be proven wrong over time. The article also said he believed poetry is an expression based on ideas, and ideas, which are faith, cannot be proven wrong. He was quoted by The Literary Encyclopedia as saying that poetry is "the breath and finer spirit of knowledge."

In 1867 Arnold wrote his most famous poem "Dover Beach." It was written only a few weeks after he was married and I believe it was addressed to his wife. Arnold probably composed the poem while sitting on Dover Beach looking out into the sea with pebbles smothering the shore. The poem is about his struggle with life, love, and faith in religion. He is more or less telling a story, and trying to talk to his wife about their

relationship and how he thinks love should be, using the sea and the waves to aid in his descriptions. He also uses the tide as an allusion for faith, revealing that in this period of time it was constantly changing; therefore faith alone isn't enough to complete our lives. He suggests that love be our strength and guiding light throughout our lives.

Arnold uses metaphor, and imagery throughout the poem to convey his feeling to the reader. The author begins the poem with a very peaceful tone, "the sea is calm tonight, the tide is full, the moon lies fair upon the sraights..." (1-3) With this passage he is describing in great detail the look and feel of the beach that night using imagery. He then summons his wife to share with him this beautiful experience, "come to the window, sweet as the night air... Listen! You hear the grating roar." (6, 9) He wanted her to see and hear the calmness and beauty of the water at that moment. He then goes on to suggest a continuous personal battle going on in his life, probably dealing with love, which leads him to a feeling and tone of sorrow, "of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, at their return, up the high strand, begin, and cease, and then again begin... and bring the eternal note of sadness." (10-12) I think Arnold is using the waves as an allusion, representing the joy and pain of relationships which sometimes leads to unhappiness, but can also lead to pure bliss. Arnold speaks of this when he says, "into his mind the turbid ebb and flow of misery." (17-18)

In lines eighteen and nineteen the author says, "of human misery; we find also in the sound a thought." Here he is associating human suffering and misery to the sea. Like the sea, things may appear perfect and wonderful from the outside, but can be completely flawed on the inside. At this point in the...

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