Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dover Beach - Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach                                                                                             Matthew Arnold

The Dover Beach is a beautiful poem written by Matthew Arnold who is a great poet and critic in English literature. Arnold believes that poetry has a great mission of life. It would take the place of religion to console man. He defines poetry as a criticism of life.
Arnold wrote this poem when people all over Europe lost faith in God and religion in the wake of the advancement of science and technology. Thus spiritualism is replaced by materialism.

The poet is standing at the window of his room facing Dover Beach.  It is full moon and the sea is also in high tide and it is calm and quiet. The sea and the shore are bathed in the moonlit night. The waves of the sea always strike against the seashore. The waves of sorrow always strike against the shore of human mind. The poet listens to the music of the waves, the slow rise and fall of the tides. The music of the sea is eternal.

Long ago Sophocles, the great Greek tragedian heard this music of the sea when he was standing on the seashore of the Mediterranean.  It brought to his mind a thought. The thought was that human life is full of sorrow.  The waves of sorrow always strike against the seashore of human mind. Sophocles wrote many Greek tragedies such as Oedipus Rex, Antigone etc.

 Now when Matthew Arnold was standing on Dover Beach, he also heard the eternal music of the sea and it brought to his mind another thought. The Sea of Faith was full once upon a time all over the world. At that time people had great faith in God and religion. The Faith protected them and enhanced their dignity and spiritual beauty and confidence just like a beautiful dress, which gives him attractive personality, glamour and confidence.  Whenever man confronted with problems and difficulties of life, he knelt down and prayed to God and he received spiritual comfort. It was enough for him. But when science and technology developed, man lost faith in God and religion. He ran after material comfort and forgot church and religion. This lack of faith led to decline of moral values and people lost peace and love.

 Now the Sea of Faith is retreating and people live like “naked shingles of the seashore”. Their beautiful ornament is gone and they are exposed to the cold wind. The cold wind stands for problems and difficulties of life. They need spiritual help which, science and technology cannot give.

In the last stanza of the poem, Matthew Arnold suggests remedy for this crisis. He knows well that people cannot go back to religion. He says,” Ah love, let us be true to one another!  Religious faith is replaced by true love. According to Arnold, this world is a “land of dreams”. Nothing is true here. Nothing is real here. There is no love and hope. There is spiritual darkness everywhere and people are fighting and killing each other like “ignorant armies clash by night”. So the only solution is true love because God is love! If people live together in peace and love, God is also with them and the earth becomes heaven!

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