March 8, 2018
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In this stanza, Arnold is clearly speaking about the fading importance of religion during his time period. Water is almost always moving, therefore it is the perfect symbol for change. In this case, “The Sea of Faith” once “full and round” and secured around the shore like a form-fitting girdle (21-22) has now fallen to a “withdrawing roar” (25). However, while Arnold evokes an air of sadness from being abandoned by something that used to be heavily present in life, there isn’t a real sense of permanence to the loss as high tide will come around once again. Since the water in this passage is a reference to the changing times, it may symbolize something other than religion on its next go-around.
Catt Jones: Dover Beach
“The sea is calm tonight, the tide is full,” in dreams calm water symbolizes emotions that are calm and not bothered by anything.
He goes on to talk about, “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean.” I googled those and will study into them tomorrow, but for now this is what google has to say about Sophochles and Aegean: Aegean: “Arnold alludes here to a passage in the ancient Greek play Antigone, by Sophocles, in which Sophocles says the gods can visit ruin on people from one generation to the next, like a swelling tide driven by winds. it: “the eternal note of sadness” (line 14). Aegean: The sea between Greece and Turkey.”
One analysis mentions that there are many changes happing in England, much colonization and many changes due to the colonization of other countries that were affecting Arnold in a confusing way, during the Victorian age.
Another analysis suggests that the “pebbles” are humans and that they are naked or vulnerable.
The Sea of Faith is obviously that lack of religion experienced and speaks to the search of something to believe in, going from science to God and back again, like the water waves in the ocean.
I thought this stanza had an interesting play on the word lie. Obviously to lie means to be still, but to lie is also to tell something false. It was an interesting word choice to me as a reader. This stanza also reminds me of the concepts of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 22, that love in relation to the darkness and bareness of the world makes it all the better–in retrospect to the awfulness of the world true feelings prevail.
The way the lines are set up also give a different meaning to the first line of the stanza–“Ah, love, let us be true”, maybe suggesting that in this life that is full of lies people often act falsely to get to the unrealistic “land of dreams”.
This final stanza shows the complexity of the world as we know it. On one hand the speaker is offering some peace by saying we, or he and his lover more specifically, can find happiness or truth if we are true to each other in matters that concern love. The world is a place without “certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; / and we are here as on a darkling plain”. The final lines of the poem show how chaotic the world is. We are all confused and blindly fighting each other. There is no way to tackle the vastness but we can start by being true and nice to each other.
The phrase ‘ignorant armies’. made me wonder whether it was the soldiers who were ignorant, or whether what/who those soldiers were serving was the ignorant one. Is there such a thing as a non-ignorant army? Every war ever started shares the fact that no one knew the end, so I was very interested in the use of this word, and the use of the word ‘lie’, earlier in the stanza, since they both seem to have a double meaning.
As we know from his “Preface” to Poems, Arnold felt that the ancient poets and dramatists such as Sophocles were the best possible models for contemporary writers because of their “particular, precise, and firm” conception of the world and of their literary and artistic subjects (NAEL 1375–middle of the page). The present stanza effectively grounds the theme of “Dover Beach” within that sensibility–an ancient and timeless conviction of the tragedy of human experience being the basis for the poem. As conveyed in the “Preface,” Arnold sees contemporary society as “wanting in moral gradeur” and afflicted by “spiritual discomfort” (NAEL 1383), fragmented and diffused by the trivialities and shallow pursuits inseperable from commercialism and consumerism. The impulse to retreat into private faithfulness and stamina corresponds to similar themes we’ve seen in Tennyson and Browning among others.
In the Preface, on page 1379, paragraph 3, he writes, “The confusion of the present times is great, the multitude of voices counseling different things bewildering…a guide…will nowhere find…his attention should be fixed on excellent models.” He goes on to share his ideas of who excellent models are, such as Shakespeare, so he has his own idea of who to revere in poetry. He must do his own style, but he likes to incorporate the styles and ingredients of great writers, such as Shakespeare and Sophocles. I haven’t finished the preface, but I feel confident assuming he also lifts up Homer as a good example to follow.
This is a great example for the Victorian writer to express the idea that greatness in life comes from struggle and turmoil, with brief, wondrous bouts of passionate love. He is recognizing the pain we as humans put each other though currently and how we have done that for most of our history. The beauty of the coastline is a mental break from the ugliness of humanity.
Wikipedia says that he lived 497 or 496 BC to 406 or 405 BC, so about 90 years. His works are Aljax, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Electra, Oedipus at Colonus.
Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus Rex, Electra, Philoctetes, Oedipus at Colonus survived
Oedipus at Colonus is the story about Oedipus, who without realizing what he had done, killed his birth father and married his birth mother. Oedipus Rex is also about this person.
Electra, the mother or father tell siblings that the brother is dead. The siblings learn the lie and kill both parents.
Philoctetes is a sub story lined up with tales of the Trojan War.
Women of Trachis is the story about the wife of Heracles. She becomes jealous, makes a love potion that she was lied to about and kills him by accident.
So this AEgean he refers to must be the AEgean Sea referred to in many Greek tales of ancient times. He doesn’t appear to refer to the Odyssey specifically, but to how Sophocles saw morality and exposed the deceit and pain that immorality caused people in Ancient Greece, or at least used this to create great dramas for Greeks to enjoy.
The final stanza in Dover beach is provoking in that Arnold speaks to lover about a dark and unhappy world. His is a realists perspective, likely in light of a declining faith in humanity and religion. This is a time, “Where ignorant armies clash by night”. In the dawn of industrialization conflict seems prevalent as society becomes materialistic. At this time society was fighting unaware over materialistic, and capitalistic reasons. Arnold has lost faith in humanity and struggles to move past, “The eternal note of sadness”. His is a romantic perspective where he looks at war, materialism, industrialization, and capitalism, as a true decline in humanity with no end in sight.
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April 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm
See in context
March 13, 2018 at 12:47 pm
March 13, 2018 at 12:19 pm
March 13, 2018 at 12:14 pm
March 13, 2018 at 11:02 am
March 13, 2018 at 8:12 am
March 12, 2018 at 10:57 pm
March 12, 2018 at 10:42 pm
March 12, 2018 at 9:08 pm
April 27, 2018 at 2:08 pm
This poem emphasizes the cyclical qualities of life. This stanza acknowledges the transition from the innocence of youth into a complicated older society. It demonstrates how happiness and youth are fleeting. In the previous stanza we are told about a carefree old man. He demonstrates how in our old age we might return to the same wonderous joy of youth. Although the elderly might posess this same happy disposition, the still carry wisdom and pain with the memories of a complicated life. Many reminisce about the simplicity of being a young girl or boy where everything is exciting and new. It takes a realist perspective where, “The sun does descend,/And our sports have an end.” This poem demonstrates how neither happiness nor sorrow are permanent afflictions. The cycle continues with no true end in sight.
April 27, 2018 at 1:58 pm
In the final stanza we see that, while the narrator doesn’t truly move to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, he takes the isle with him in his thoughts, memory, and temperament. He is expressing how he will take refuge in his memory of the isle in order to live amongst society while embracing a feeling of peace and connection with nature. Even, “While [he stands] on the roadway, or on the pavements grey”, he is able to connect with the Isle in his , “deep heart’s core” and in his soul. This is a form of escapism, while he still allows himself to be somewhat entrapped by a materialistic society. He gives in to most social conventions while holding on to romantic ideals.
April 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm
This poem reminds me of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The narrator desires to escape from society by living alone in nature. This is likely in response to an increasingly industrialized society. He glorifies nature and it’s peaceful qualities by describing the Lake of Innisfree with a natural supernaturalist perspective. This sort of ideal is expressed often throughout the arts and can be described as a romantic perspective.
April 24, 2018 at 11:45 am
This poem exemplifies the transcendent ideals of writers in this period. “I’m happiest when most away” followed by, “I can bear my soul from its home of clay” suggests that the author finds happiness in spirit. She desires a freedom that comes with escaping the physical world before her. The, “home of clay” she speaks of is likely her physical body. In some religions a deity creates humans with clay. This poem is likely demonstrating escapism where the author would enjoy escaping reality if only in spirit. This is likely a response to industrialization which tends to strengthen attachment to the physical/material aspects of society.
April 24, 2018 at 12:13 am
Yes, definitely hearing your lover tell you they love you while meaning it is beautiful to the soul. Sometimes, though, feeling it is more important. The passionate intensity throughout the whole poem shows that she does need to hear it more than feel it. It soothes the soul to hear your lover telling you how they love you.
April 24, 2018 at 12:02 am
The forbidden fruit is indeed strong throughout the whole of the poem, I wholeheartedly agree. It seems that Laura is full of curiosity, but is that on the whole wrong? I think Lizzie’s warnings are what made Laura curious; a lot like the parent telling the teenager not to do something which in tern makes the teenager even MORE inclined to do it.
April 23, 2018 at 10:54 pm
This whole poem brings to mind an ending, as in a changing of the season; possibly a spring straight into winter. There is a loss and isolation feel to it, especially at the mention of Danae. I do love winter and I know now everyone does, which is why to me this feels like he’s writing about an ending of a beautiful spring.
April 23, 2018 at 9:52 pm
There are two phrases that stand out to me in this: train-oil breath and petitionary growl. I have no idea why, but the first thing that came to my mind is world weariness. Carlyle is excellently descriptive about this Hyperborean Bear, this Russian Smuggler. Carlyle is trying to explain to him that he is absolutely not interested and who can blame him? It’s only after he shows the Russian his pistols that the Russian backs off. An everlasting no? If the pistols hadn’t dissuaded him, Carlyle might have been involved in a Duel, which is not something he wanted.
April 23, 2018 at 8:54 pm
I, too, thought war when I read this. The hope he shows until the stanza you mentioned was palpable, but so is his despair.
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