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  • Topic: Dover Beach, A Darkling Plain, Coast
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  • Published : January 22, 2013
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Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold
(1822-1888)

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. [5]
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, [10]
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 [15]
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. [20]

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, [25]
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 [30]
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 [35]
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Glossary

Dover beach: Dover Beach is a seaside resort in southeast England that has been a popular vacation spot for many years. The brilliant white chalk cliffs rising up from the sea are a famous landmark.

15. Sophocles: Sophocles made several references to the sea that apply here. This portion of Antigone is probably the most apt: "Blest are those whose days have not tasted of evil. For when a house has once been shaken by the gods, no form of ruin is lacking, but it...
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