A Comparison of Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold and Prayer Before Brith by Louis MacNeice

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A Comparison of Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold and Prayer Before Brith by Louis MacNeice 'Dover Beach' by Matthew Arnold, written in 1867, and 'Prayer Before Birth' written in 1951 by Louis MacNeice share many similarities despite being written nearly on hundred years apart from each other. This essay will explore the issues and ideas that both poems share, in addition to drawing attention to some of the key differences. 'Dover Beach' is about the thoughts of a man on his honeymoon, who shares his sentiments about the suffering of the world and that fact that his 'love' is the only thing which is positive about his life. 'Prayer Before Birth' describes the thoughts of an unborn child, making a plea to be kept safe against the dangers of the earth. Both poems refer to, are about, are interested in, and are concerned with criticism of the world, and distressed narrators; while some differences can be observed. For example: The unborn child in 'Prayer Before Birth' is certain of what the world is like, and he knows what might happen to him. Matthew Arnold, on the other hand expresses uncertainty in his poem. Even with slight differences, the predominant themes /preoccupations of the two poems are the same. It is clear that both poets feel disillusioned with life, and consider that there is little in life which is joyful or cause for optimism. Indeed, Matthew Arnold refers to a world which, "Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain." Louis MacNeice is much more specific in is list of things which bring pain to individuals: the lectures of old men, the strife with bureaucracy, the humilia... ... middle of paper ... ... free thinking of his own. To him, this is a fate worse than death, and he would rather die. What I think, is that the two poems are similar, because they are both evoke depressed feelings coming form the poet. Especially 'Prayer Before Birth', because how can a fetus be so incredibly pessimistic? 'Dover Beach' in my opinion is more poetic and more symbolic, and much more profound; whereas 'Prayer Before Birth' is more superficial and straightforward. I personally preferred 'Dover Beach' because of its vivid imagery, and subtle references to religion. I also feel sorry for Matthew Arnold, because when he wrote that beautiful poem, he was feeling anxiety, and uncertainty. He defiantly was not content whilst writing 'Dover Beach.' On the other hand I believe that Louis MacNeice was being cynical, and narrow minded.

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