Mathew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” is a poem with a melancholy note. It is actually very complex and too difficult to understand because it is a state of mind which is swinging between hope and despair. This is an elegy which is tremendous mournful in its tone…
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The poem depicts the seashore at night. The night which at first feels very tranquil for the poet, but this tranquility, suddenly transforms into despair and darkness. Mathew Arnold belongs to the era when Britain was under the influence of industrialization. It was a period of rationalism. The new generation was persistent about finding the logical reasons behind religious affair. It was not the age when you believe everything blindly. The old values had been driven away and new values were taking place of the old values. The mind was very confused. It was the period in which the questions had been arisen against religious faith. The faith of Christianity was thus on stake. Arnold was deeply religious person and so he lamented the deterioration of religious faith that he calls “Evaporation of the sea of Faith.” The central idea of this poem is the shattering of faith on Christianity.
Arnold, like most of his contemporaries was so much disturbed by loss of religious faith in the new and modern generation. To denote the idea of disbelief he has used the imagery of “Sea of Belief.” It is a typical Victorian poem which reflects the contemporary society which has given up the religious norms and which is travelling towards modernism. This modernism is of course, very hard to accept especially for the sensible people like Mathew Arnold. It is because the foundation of his thoughts and principles was built on Christianity. The change is not at all a happy moment for Arnold, so this poem is a melancholy poem. In this poem Mathew Andrew unwillingly accepts the reality and the changing world. He has used the sea images. The entire poem revolves around the seascape. The sea of faith has been evaporated, disappeared. Arnold wants to be with the old morals and faith but the world does not allow him to accept the religious beliefs completely. It is a typical Victorian predicament of mind. The sea in this poem is associated with the strong belief in Christianity. The tragedy of the Victorian age was that belief was shattering. The poet’s state of mind is not at all different. He wants his religious belief to be intact. But the New Age is not allowing him to do so. He calls the sea as his belief. Like the depth of sea, he also has a deep belief in Christian values. But when he is staring at sea, he feels that the sea of belief is evaporating. The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world. The deep sea of faith is disappearing from his mind. The rational mind always suffers a lot as it is not ready to give up his old upbringings but at the same time his logical thinking does not allow him/her to embrace the irrational religious beliefs. His strong religious foundation again is not ready to accept the modernity undoubtedly as these new ideas are extraterrestrial for him. He is doubtful about his old doctrine and he is reluctant to accept the new ideologies. Almost all Victorian authors, poets have painted the same sketch of this kind of state of mind. In the first stanza Arnold Mathew visualizes the picture of a calm sea. The essence of tranquility and purity is present in the first stanza. sea is calm to-night. The tide is full, the moon lies fair. A note of tranquility and serenity is expressed in the above two line. The poet is very firm with his religious theology. It is the
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