The first part of the stanza the
The role of love in the age of religious doubt and political, spiritual and social unrest as presented in Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’. The Victorian Era was, without a doubt, an extraordinarily complex age. It was a time of tremendous scientific progress, invention and exploration.
It was a period of economic and social changes, industrial revolution, discussion and argument about the nature and role of woman, known also as “The Woman Question”.What is more, it was the age of transition and an era of the crisis of faith. It was the time of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species publication (1859). His revolutionary theory of evolution undermined the foundations of religion. The Bible was becoming questioned. Many people began to doubt what was written in the book of Genesis. It ceased to be treated as a reliable source of information on how the universe was created.
God seemed to be powerless against the rising age of the machine.In his poem “Dover Beach” Matthew Arnold laments on the world’s loss of religious faith but at the same time he appoints/ designates love as the solution to the problem of isolation and separation between man and God. “Dover Beach”, published in 1867, is a dramatic monologue in which the poetic persona, the voice of Arnold’s contemporaries, presents the fear of being alone in the age of dwindling faith and fading religion. This is shown through various literary techniques.
The poem consists of five uneven stanzas.It is written in free verse without any particular rhyme scheme or meter. The author uses imagery to set the mood and the setting.
The views of the poetic persona are expressed metaphorically with the use of pathetic fallacy that is by attributing human emotions or characteristics to nature. All these elements composed together in one poem give the reader the possibility to experience the lyrical eye’s feeling of being lost and solitude. They also evoke the feelings of sympathy for the suffering lyrical self , who suffers under the existing conditions.Dover Beach is a dramatic monologue in which the speaker is probably the poet, the listener of the monologue is poet’s wife and the readers are the audience. The poem begins with a two-part stanza which is a description of the lyrical eye’s view of the window over a moonlit pebble beach of the Dover region of Southeastern England. While reading the first part of the stanza the reader is lulled by the pleasant connotations of the words like calm, fair and tranquil.
The sea, described by the speaker, is calm, the night-air is sweet, the cliffs are glimmering nd vast and the bay is tranquil. Initially, the atmosphere is peaceful, hopeful and positive, however, in the second part of the stanza it changes dramatically and becomes mournful, dreary, ominous and depressing. The use of the words and phrases like grating roar, fling or tremulous cadence evoke negative feelings of uncertainty, instability or lostness. It is not only the mood and atmosphere that make the two parts of the first stanza different from each other. The author contrasts the two sections by appealing to the sense of sight in the first and to hearing in the second part.In the sixth line the speaker addresses his beloved saying “Come to the window, sweet is the night air! ”. Such an invitation may be considered as a romantic gesture to share the wonderful view of the sea.
However, next, the speaker changes the tone. He describes the horrible sound of the pebbles beating away at the land and in the last line of the stanza he calls this scenery the source that brings ‘the eternal note of sadness in’. Depression, sadness and melancholy seem to overwhelm the speaker who lacks hope for the future.To emphasize the eternal quality of unhappiness and despair, the speaker refers to Greek tragedy playwright, Sophocles who heard the same sound of ‘eternal sadness’ on ‘the Aegean’ with its ‘turbid ebb and flow/ of human misery ‘. Although there is the distance of time and space the feeling of gloom and melancholy over the changing of the world prevails. The speaker feels the same helplessness as Sophocles did thousands of years ago.
Additionally, the comparison to Sophocles, the author of such mournful tragedies as Antigone, King Oedipus and Electra, foreshadows the depressing tone of the subsequent stanzas.In the third stanza the lyrical eye recalls the image of the sea once again. This time it is turned into the ‘Sea of Faith’ that ‘Was once, too, at the full’ which is a metaphor for a time when untroubled and deep faith as well as unswerving religion could be experienced without the doubts that the Industrial Revolution, Darwinism and many other social and economical changes of Victorian Era have brought. According to the speaker, the present disbelief in God, man, society and movement of the civilization towards a better and more peaceful life created an effect of sorrow and emptiness in man’s life.The withdrawing and retreating Faith leaves the world stripped naked and miserable (‘the vast edges drear/ And naked shingles of the world’).
In the final stanza the speaker seems to offer the only remedy for this loss of faith, namely ‘love’. He addresses his beloved and says ‘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;’.The plea to the speaker’s lover comprises actually more desperation than it does affection. In these lines the lyrical self implies that love is the saving light, the only thing left for the speaker to cling to that provides meaning to dark lives devoid of faith and God ‘Where ignorant armies clash by night’. Taking everything into consideration, Matthew Arnold in his ‘Dover Beach’ claims that in the age of disbelief and political, spiritual as well as social unrest it is only the true and faithful love that offers the saving light in this lonely, empty and dreary world.
Love is the feeling that gives enough strength to anybody lost in the world that is consumed with hate and taken over by darkness. Bibliography: * Arnold, Matthew. Dover beach and other poems : unabridged. New York : Dover Publications, 1994. Web. 22 December 2010, from http://books.
google. com * Grimes, Linda Sue. Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’- The Virtue of Truth (2007). Web. 22 December 2010, from http://www. suite101.
com * Kokernot, Walter. ‘Where ignorant armies clash by night” and the Sikh Rebellion: A Contemporary Source for Matthew Arnold’s Night-Battle Imagery. Victorian Poetry 43. 1 (2005): 99-108. Web. 23 December 2010, from www. jstore.
org * Miller, Lois. “The Eternal Note of Sadness: An Analysis of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’. ” The English Journal 54. 5 (1965): 447-448. Web. www.
jstore. org * Quijano-Cruz, Johansen. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and The Victorian Crisis of Faith: – A Critical Reading of Dover Beach (2008). Web.
23 December 2010, from http://www. scribd. com * Victorian Website: http://www. victorianweb. org/vn/victor4. html