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"Poems of Lonely Terror." (W. H. Auden) A Critical Discussion of Arnold's 'Dover Beach', Tennyson's 'Mariana', and their Victorian Context

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Introduction

GCSE English Coursework Let every eye negotiate for itself And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch "Poems of Lonely Terror." (W. H. Auden) A Critical Discussion of Arnold's 'Dover Beach', Tennyson's 'Mariana', and their Victorian Context The topics that Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach' and Alfred Tennyson's 'Mariana' raise are the distinctive and typical Victorian fears which were apparent in the era. Arnold's renowned 'Dover Beach' seethes in relation to the ignorance of the population, and how it tends to gets in the way of the traditional and complete faithfulness and spiritual enlightenment of Britain. The poet-persona expresses his hatred for progressive materialism and the death of society that naturally combines with it. In 'Mariana' also, the poet expresses typically Victorian subjects: nostalgia, gothic qualities but, (differing from 'Dover Beach') a yearning for a God. There are many similar and opposing qualities to these two poems, and one of which is within their writing styles. The authors present their work in quite varying manners - Arnold uses the dramatic monologue, but Tennyson employs a lyrical ballad. These genres are used because of their compatibility with the poems. For example, 'Mariana' is told in a 3rd person, lyrical ballad because it runs extremely well with the poem. The immense descriptions given by Tennyson wouldn't work nearly as well in a dramatic monologue, where a character would have to describe it all through narration, instead of the imagery simply being inserted into the text. ...read more.

Middle

In 'Dover Beach', I believe Arnold intended the notion of time for a remotely similar, but different purpose; as Arnold's enemy, as every moment that time went on, so did the relentless drive of the new and modernising age. The way Arnold uses introspection and extroversion to focus his arguments is an interesting literary technique. 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. With expressions like this, Arnold's quasi-manipulative writing style pushes the reader into extroversion, whilst We Find also in the sound a thought, Hearing it by this distant northern sea. causes the reader to ask himself questions. He forces the reader to examine the human condition, to look beneath the skin and question their morality. However, he guides the reader to do this on a grand scale, to his or her own thoughts and beliefs about the changing political and social world, rather than just to ask questions about themselves. This juxtaposition of the inner and outer worlds is extensive within 'Mariana' as well. Tennyson creates an immense array of depiction around Mariana's surroundings - "The rusted nails fell from the knots", "Weeded and worn the ancient thatch", "Till cold wins woke the grey-eyed morn", "A sluice with blackn'd waters slept" and immerses the reader into the poem. However, he also spends time narrating how Mariana's life follows its depressingly monotonous course with dismal adjectives, intertwining Mariana's 'plot' with a summary of her environment. ...read more.

Conclusion

The authors of the poems have particularly contrasting intents for their work however. Arnold wishes for his to be didactic and polemic, to teach a lesson and warn others, and this is his primary aim. Secondary to that would be the artistic hope for a poem - to entertain, or please it's audience. Tennyson sees this situation from the opposite perspective however - he hopes to absorb his readers with the beauty and passion of the poem rather than it's sub-textual meaning. Both poems make judgements upon the human condition, and highlight 'universal dilemmas', which we must try to act against. 'Dover Beach' shows the danger of progressiveness, and how society is deteriorating into a shallow, callous culture. Arnold urges us to re-embrace faith and religion, or to suffer the consequences with a horror-filled society. His view of human life is one of utter misery; one of enduring depression and gloom, with punctures of hope, which would only serve to further sadden once any hope falls through and fails. Tennyson wishes us to realise how even a single selfish action could utterly ruin a life, and that love can be the most depressing of all things; at least in 'Dover Beach' the two lovers were together in the hell-on-earth. He proves that it is partly human nature to wallow in sadness, and to act thoughtlessly or immaturely, as Angelo did. Perhaps Tennyson is trying to point out that if a desperately distressing tale such as Mariana's could occur in a world, then there is something horrendously wrong with that society. ...read more.

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