There is No Certainty in Dover Beach
How can life or anything be so wonderful, but at times seem so unbearable? This is a question that Matthew Arnold may have asked himself one day, while writing Dover Beach.
This is a poem about a sea and a beach that is truly beautiful, but hold much deeper meaning than what meets the eye. The poem is written in free verse with no particular meter or rhyme scheme, although some of the words do rhyme. Arnold is the speaker speaking to someone he loves. As the poem progresses, the reader sees why Arnold poses the question stated above, and why life seems to be the way it is. During the first part of the poem Arnold states, "The Sea is calm tonight" and in line 7, "Only, from the long line of spray". In this way, Arnold is setting the mood or scene so the reader can understand the point he is trying to portray. In lines 1-6 he is talking about a very peaceful night on the ever so calm sea, with the moonlight shining so intensely on the land. Then he states how the moonlight "gleams and is gone" because the "cliffs of England" are standing at their highest peaks, which are blocking the light of the moon. Next, the waves come roaring into the picture, as they "draw back and fling the pebbles" onto the shore and back out to sea again. Arnold also mentions that the shore brings "the eternal note of sadness in", maybe representing the cycles of life and repetition. Arnold then starts describing the history of Sophocle's idea of the "Aegean's turbid ebb and flow". The sea is starting to become rougher and all agitated. Also the mention of "human misery" implies that life begins and ends, but it can still be full of happiness, and unfortunately, at the same time, sadness. "The Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore." The key word in that stanza is once, because it implies that he (Arnold) used to look at the sea in a different way than he does now. Throughout the whole poem, Arnold uses a metaphor to describe his views and opinions. Now he only hears its "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar." It seems as though Arnold is questioning his own faith. The whole poem is based on a metaphor - Sea to Faith.