Victorian Poems - how poetry changed alongside wider society
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Victorian Poems The Victorian period was a time of radical change. Gone were the "Romantic" releases from misery where birds would sing "like a rose embowered" (To a Skylark) and in was the Origin of Species which shook the religious world and huge secular transformations such as the industrial revolution. While some people embraced these discoveries with renewed enthusiasm, others started the path towards existentialism. Consequently, the poems which I will be discussing are Dover Beech by Mathew Arnold and Gods Grandeur by Gerald Manly Hopkins which deals with such issues but results in different conclusions. In contrast, both poems are fascinating from the opening stanza, Dover beach starts of tranquil as the "grating roar" of the sea ebbs the landscape amongst the "gleams" of moon light. The lexis is relatively simple as Arnold cleverly uses monosyllables along with simple verbs: "...on the French coast the light gleams and is gone" to create a soothing ambience.
As you can see, change has different effects of different people. In this instance, Hopkins does not share the enthusiasm of the industrial revolution and is instead more concerned with the atheistic quality of the world. In the second stanza of Dover Beach, we find out more about the authors sadness in the "northern sea." He reveals that "ebb and flow" of the sea reminds him of human misery just like "Sophocles long ago." This pessimistic view on life is the antithesis of such Romantic poems by Keats and is predominately caused by the feeling of desertion and lack of hope. We learn that Arnold can no longer draw comfort from the "sea of faith" or religion which encompassed him and like the "folds of a bright girdle furled." Instead, the coast and sea is an analogy for religious trend. Christianity is ebbing away because of scientific dispatch.
Gods Grandeur ends with: "World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings." This imagery is inspired with hope and resembles the techniques by Romantic poets where an animal would be used as the vehicle to escape misery; for example the skylark in Keats poem. On the other hand, Dover Beech is not optimistic but instead shares the pessimism associated with poems in the 1900. Arnold depicts the world as a stagnant site with "neither joy, nor love nor light." In the last stanza, he talks personally to his wife: "Ah, love, let us be true" In a place of no faith, Arnold wishes to pin their faith on each other- the language becomes poetic with a series of semantically related adjectives: "So various, so beautiful, so new" The Victorians lived through a time of change however change in the near future results in "neither certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain." This apprehension is felt by Arnold who is "swept with confused alarms"; the complete antithesis of Hopkins.
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