Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold


Dover Beach is a very 'mood' evoking poem . We are first met with an appreciation for the sea and different emotions that is draws to the observer. However as the poem progresses we are gradually introduced to a large metaphor for love and like the sea is able to evoke many moods , and different emotions , whether prosperous or decayed. The poet describes the emotions with extreme passion and perhaps with slight hysteria. We are given as sense of loss by this hysteria which becomes clearer in the last stanza.

The title of this poem , 'Dover Beach' , really sets the scene to the reader almost instantly . Dover , with its white cliffs , giving us a sense of dominance and magnificence. The poet may have done this as to set the mood for the opening stanza .For others it may provoke a thought or memory of the past . Perhaps on childhood holidays with your parents. The could be provoking these thoughts so that you can empathise later to what he is experiencing in the poem . This setting for many , will of course bring the Channel to mind , a gigantic image , provoking again thoughts, this time of France. The title itself however does not give you any emotional insight into the poem . I feel the poet did this as to not alert the reader to what is going to transcend upon them further in the poem.

The poems opening stanza is to begin with very soft and tranquil , 'The sea is calm tonight'. The words the poet uses are pleasing , ' Gleams , sweet , glimmering'. The mood for the poem is being set. The reader is filled with visions of peace and a sense of being content ' sweet is the night air !' .However the mood of the poem dramatically changes. The poet begins to use words which changes the mood and are vastly different from the previous lines , ' roar , slow, sadness' . This sudden emotional change to me is a symbol of his love or life . Once the poets life was calm like the seas' in the opening line . The poets life has no changed into a turmoil of emotions , which are charged like the sea ,

' the waves suck back , and fling ,
At their return'

This sudden change in mood in the poem is very similar to the changing mood of the sea , for which the first stanza is explaining.

In the second stanza we are actually able to learn more of the poets analogy. The poet believes that the noise of the sea , can bring in the ' flow // Of human misery'. This is what he claims happened to Sophocles. This analogy is perhaps what also happened to the poets life. The calm see turned into a continual waring swash in his soul which brought with it misery. However the last line of the stanza tells us that this noise does not bring with it just human misery but also a thought , the poet does not elaborate this theory so we are left to assume this changes from person to person . ' in the sound a thought.'

The sea again in the third stanza represents his loss of faith . This loss of faith is elaborately described as disappearing in the nights wind ' to the breath of the night-wind' .Here the poet builds up a clear picture of the wind being personified , 'to the breath' and taking this faith down to the ' vast edges' and with it also the 'naked shingles of the world'

This idea of naked shingles , is perhaps how the poet feels himself to be . Isolated from anyone else, left stripped naked to have all of his ideals taken away from him by the simple element the wind. By using the different 'moods' of the sea , calm and powerful, the poet is able to make a connection to life. The way the sea continuously bashes , hurling rocks up against the strand , gives us a sense of relentlessness of some emotional strain on his life , ' Begin,and cease, and then again begin' .

The final stanza is an incorporation