Dover Beach

Word Count: 595

How can life or anything be so wonderful, but at times seem
so unbearable? This is a question that Matthew Arnold may
have asked himself one day, while writing "Dover Beach".
This is a poem about a sea and a beach that is truly beautiful,
but hold much deeper meaning than what meets the eye. The
poem is written in free verse with no particular meter or
rhyme scheme, although some of the words do rhyme.
Arnold is the speaker speaking to someone he loves. As the
poem progresses, the reader sees why Arnold poses the
question stated above, and why life seems to be the way it
is. During the first part of the poem Arnold states, "The Sea
is calm tonight" and in line 7, "Only, from the long line of
spray". In this way, Arnold is setting the mood or scene so
the reader can understand the point he is trying to portray. In
lines 1-6 he is talking about a very peaceful night on the ever
so calm sea, with the moonlight shining so intensely on the
land. Then he states how the moonlight "gleams and is gone"
because the "cliffs of England" are standing at their highest
peaks, which are blocking the light of the moon. Next, the
waves come roaring into the picture, as they "draw back and
fling the pebbles" onto the shore and back out to sea again.
Arnold also mentions that the shore brings "the eternal note
of sadness in", maybe representing the cycles of life and
repetition. Arnold then starts describing the history of
Sophocle\'s idea of the "Aegean\'s turbid ebb and flow". The
sea is starting to become rougher and all agitated. Also the
mention of "human misery" implies that life begins and ends,
but it can still be full of happiness, and unfortunately, at the
same time, sadness. "The Sea of Faith was once, too, at the
full, and round earth\'s shore." The key word in that stanza is
once, because it implies that he (Arnold) used to look at the
sea in a different way than he does now. Throughout the
whole poem, Arnold uses a metaphor to describe his views
and opinions. Now he only hears its "melancholy, long,
withdrawing roar." It seems as though Arnold is questioning
his own faith. The whole poem is based on a metaphor - Sea
to Faith. When the sea retreats, so does faith, and leaves us
with nothing. In the last nine lines, Arnold wants his love and
himself to be true to one another. The land, which he thought
was so beautiful and new, is actually nothing - "neither joy,
nor love, nor light". In reality, Arnold is expressing that
nothing is certain, because where there is light there is dark
and where there is happiness there is sadness. "We are here
though as on a darkling plain, swept with confused alarms of
struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash at night".
Arnold uses much alliteration in the poem. For example, in
line 31, "To lie before us like a land of dreams", repeating
the letter L at the beginning of three words. Also, in line 4,
"Gleams and is gone…", repeating the letter G. The usage of
assonance and consonance is not widespread in "Dover
Beach". In line 3 - "…on the French coast the light" - the
repetition of the letter T is shown, as an example of
consonance. Other literary techniques, such as
onomatopoeia and hyperbole, are not used in the poem,
besides the metaphor for "Faith" being the Sea. The diction
Arnold uses creates a sense of peacefulness and calmness. It
is fairly easily understood vocabulary, with the exception of a
few words, such as cadence and darkling. From reading
Matthew Arnold\'s "Dover Beach", one realizes that there is
no certainty in life. When everything is going perfectly,
something unfortunate may happen at any given time, with no