Dover Beach Essay

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We humans are a crafty. Since the dawn of time immemorial, we have labored to make sense of an existence that, by and large, defies comprehension. There have been some successes; science, philosophy, love, and religion have all been forged and wielded in this struggle to offer the occasional light of truth. The problem is that they all deal in the definitive, but in a world without absolutes there might only be one human convention capable of truly answering the biggest questions of life: poetry. All teasing aside, the poem is indeed best suited to deal with matters of the unknown because poems are intrinsically left open to interpretation. In the simplest terms, Matthew Arnold’s 18th century poem “Dover Beach” is about the unknown.…show more content…
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With “Come to the window, sweet is the night air! / Only, from the long line of spray” we not only smell and taste the incoming tide, but we even feel it on our skin (ll. 6-7). Heretofore the poem is rooted in concrete, tangible descriptions of the visible world that will contrast with the more nebulous remainder of the poem. Essentially, the first eight lines are the firmament that the rest of the poem stands on. Both structurally and metaphorically, while it questions the concept of questions, it is what’s known. So far our senses have guided us peacefully, but then one of them betrays us: “Listen! You hear the grating roar” (ll. 8), and with that you also casts we the reader as the one on the beach. Speaking of the waves disturbing the pebbles, the word grating marks the change from serenity to conflict. The last two lines of the first stanza tell us definitively that the waves are indeed a source of strife - “With tremulous cadence slow, and bring / The eternal note of sadness in” (ll. 13-14). At this point in the poem, the reader should be aware that the waves are more than just waves, though what they represent is not yet clear. In the second stanza, Arnold’s poem makes a radical shift through time and begins to give us an idea of why the waves bring sadness. Suddenly we are in ancient Greece with “Sophocles long ago…” who listened to the waves and they brought “Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow / Of human misery”
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