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Matthew Arnold - Dover Beach (1851)

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 Aegaean, 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.  
Matthew Arnold.
Matthew Arnold was the son of the  headmaster of Rugby School. In  1851 he was appointed as an  Inspector of Schools, providing him  with enough money to marry.   His most famous poem is 'Dover  Beach' which was inspired by his visit  to Dover following his honeymoon  abroad in 1851.  
Dover Beach in the early 19th Century. This is much as Arnold would have seen it before the westward expansion of the Harbour in the late 19th Century. Back to Words Index