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Dark Dover Beach - review

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Dark Dover Beach By: Emmanuel Perez For: Aurora Flewwelling-Skup Date: 12/11/2003 Despair and disillusionment towards the notion of religion is what "Dover Beach" ultimately comes down to. The narrator, which we do not know if it's a man or a woman (although we will assume is a man), comes to the disheartening realization that not everything is what it seems to be, and that his religious beliefs, for one, are something that cannot be counted on anymore. From now on, his loved one's faithfulness is all that he has left to cling onto, or at least that is what he counts on, hopes and implores for. We are first transported to Dover Beach, as if we were there, with him, looking through that window, observing the sea, calm at first. The speaker then calls on his companion (of which we can't, again, be certain of its sex, although we will assume it is woman) to look out through the window and listen, as the sea becomes agitated. He then proceeds to recall how Sophocles, the Greek dramatist, had also witnessed, long ago, the same scenery, "on the Aegean", and thus heard the same sounds of a troubled sea, the waves crashing onto the shore, slowly, back and forth: "It brought into his mind the turbid ebb and flow of human misery." ...read more.


It seems to prolong the nostalgic feeling that is starting to seep in, "and bring the eternal note of sadness in." A first allusion to the despondency brought by war is made here, in which continuity will reside, turning into an inescapable routine, which will "cease, and then again begin," relentlessly. The second stanza stands as a pivotal one, dutifully preceded by the previous stanza's last line of eternal sadness. The idea of "human misery" is brought into the scheme and we now start understanding the speaker's murk and anguish. In this stanza's last lines, hearing and sight senses are once again sought out: "We find also in the sound a thought, hearing it by his distant northern sea." The next stanza brings into play the metaphorical "Sea of Faith," which represents religion. Religious principles and doctrines are being swept away by the sea's "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar." He melancholically yearns for the times when religion was widespread, "round earth's shore." He seems to have seen religion as a sort of protective shield, enveloping the world, which "lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled." ...read more.


Enlightenment has crept into oblivion and now all is bleak and dark. The last two are a supplication for peace: "Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night." Religious values and principles no longer guide the people, and war is now prevailing. On a more concrete level, Matthew Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach," is a vivid voice praying for faithful love in what has become an almost evil and faithless world. On an abstract level, though, the poem is a metaphor for never-ending cycle of war and the darkness it brings to the world. The waves, representing the battles, the pebbles the innocent people flung around and about by their force, and that note of dejection and hopelessness present throughout the entire poem hints at no possible end; much less for romantics, which the narrator seems to be. Dover Beach is a cry for both the endurance of love and an end to war. We are lead to believe that the loss of faith is to humanity what the ebbing tide is to nature: inescapable. Furthermore, it is not certain whether Arnold would welcome the Sea of Faith being at its full tide again, for the ebbing uncovered the truths which a full sea covered; and ignorance does not seem to be the speaker's forte. ...read more.

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