Analysis Of Matthew Arnold 's ' Dover Beach '

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(Not) Alone in the ‘Sea of Faith’ Published in 1867, Matthew Arnold’s "Dover Beach" is short lyrical elegy that depicts a couple overlooking the English Channel, questioning the gradual, steady loss of faith of the time. Set against this backdrop of a society’s crisis of faith, Arnold artfully uses a range of literary techniques to reinforce the central theme of the poem, leading some to argue that Dover Beach was one of the first ‘free-verse’ poems of the language. Indeed, the structure and content of the poem goes against all traditional romantic love sonnets of the day with a decidedly more melancholic and darker tone. Whilst respected critic Stefan Collini explores the notion that Arnold’s poem is too focused on the poet’s own melancholic mindset, I will endeavour to provide an alternative viewpoint which will reason that Arnold successfully delivered a wider commentary about the crisis of faith that resonated not only with Arnold himself, but with the audience. The poetic techniques that Arnold employs through shifts in metre, rhythm and form serve to reinforce the change in human condition that Arnold is depicting in the poem. This is perhaps best illustrated through examining the meter of Dover Beach, which for all its apparent minimalism and ease, is subtler than one might think. The poem is comprised of four stanzas, which - while differing in length - appear to retain a loose semblance of iambic rhythm. If we examine Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light
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