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(1822-1888 / Middlesex / England)

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Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;--on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the {AE}gean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! 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,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Submitted: Sunday, May 06, 2001
Edited: Sunday, May 06, 2001


Read poems about / on: sea, moon, faith, beach, night, beautiful, peace, light, joy, world, wind, pain, dream

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Comments about this poem (From the Hymn of Empedocles by Matthew Arnold )

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  • Ian Elliott (10/12/2013 10:59:00 AM)

    First encountered part of this poem in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. It is a lament for the decline of faith, and as such, it expresses the naivete of youth.

    6 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • izzy The Unicorn (9/30/2013 3:42:00 PM)

    oh well this is sad and about pain: (still pretty cool :)

  • M C (8/22/2012 10:30:00 AM)

    This poem speaks so beautifully to how I have felt after becoming handicapped and after a failed relationship with an unstable, destitute, mentally ill woman, both experiences of which have fundamentally shaped how I view reality. Health and well-being are frighteningly thin veneers. One of the truest fragments of the English language is in this poem: no help for pain.

  • John Boney (8/22/2012 12:26:00 AM)

    i love this poem period.. i dont have an opinion on it like the rest........tho i will say it..i love this poem, it reminds me of god and real desire for faith.. thank u no more comments

  • Allison Helman (4/26/2012 9:10:00 AM)

    I feel a better understanding of being a Victorian. How isolating and dark to mark the eternal as collective, pitiless bleak memory reflecting for him as water does at least on the surface. I myself would not have wanted to wander far from my flowers, dance, and music and having very pretty dresses.

  • Ava Anderson (4/26/2012 8:27:00 AM)

    wow peoples u have some strooong feelings

  • Manonton Dalan (4/26/2012 4:23:00 AM)

    story telling comparing beach to life

  • Saiom Shriver (3/31/2012 1:12:00 PM)

    My father ignited me with love for this poem

  • Claudia Krizay (4/26/2011 1:29:00 PM)

    With this particular poem I disagree with pruchnicki because I think this is a beautiful poem- the language Arnold uses here is almost like music to me. But I don't think that people should get their noses bent out of shape just because someone writes a negative comment about a poem. Everyone has a right to their opinion even if it is negative- when someone writes a poem or does any work of art or music they have to be prepared for the fact that it isn't often that 100% of people who read, look at or listen to it- are going to like it. In a way I respect Pruchnicki for being so open and honest and not lying about how he feels and speaking his own voice.

  • Mohammad Akmal Nazir (4/26/2011 1:02:00 PM)

    Published in 'New Poems' in 1867, 'Dover Beach' is Arnold's early poem. Immediately after his marriage with Francis Lucy Whitman, he visited Dover Beach with her. Yet he does not feel happy nor does he romanticise the poem. He laments here the loss of faith in religion which is the sole characteristic of Victorian Era. The poem's note is melancholic. It is at once religious, philosophical and emotional. Great poem indeed.

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