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The fundamentals of Arnold’s poem
While comparing the two poems, I would like to disclose the peculiarities of both pieces of writing step by step. So, let’s consider the poem written by Matthew Arnold Dover Beach. First of all, I have to say that the poem is recognized to be a reflection of the Victorian Period. In other words, Arnold speaks about the realities of the time. Thus, his ability to disclose the mood of the society of the Victorian Period seems to be rather impressive.
Taking into account the time Arnold writes about, one can make a conclusion that the poem is closely related to the so-called Times of Trouble. Nobody will deny the fact that Dover Beach is considered to be a masterpiece. I suppose that the success of the poem can be explained by the author’s ability to think in the abstract. In other words, when disclosing burning problems of the time, Arnold was not focused on special issues; on the contrary, it seems that the author was interested in universal problems of the Victorian era. In my opinion, the most vivid problem of the Victorian Era, the author discloses in his poem, is the so-called loss of faith.
The Victorian Period covers the rise of an industrialized society. I suppose that such technological advancements made people feel lost and lonely. For this reason, one can speak about the tone of the poem. In other words, Arnold’s melancholic tone is considered to be the consequence of the above-mentioned rapid developments. Technological advancements concerning scientific views and discoveries impacted the Victorians’ feeling of loss and anxiety.
The analysis of the poem
Generally, it is the false reality of the world, which is considered to be the key theme of the author’s poem. To my mind, Arnold’s somber tone is mostly related to the consequences of the technological changes on a person’s psyche.
In his poem, the author writes,
“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” (Arnold 1867).
These lines give us an opportunity to suppose that another key theme of the poem is considered to be a religious aspect. Moreover, I have to point out that Christian social norms were not important for the Victorian Era. The folds of a bright girdle furl’d seems to be the most significant line, as it reflects the Christian past. In my opinion, the poem is also associated with the late Romanticism Period.
“Ah, love, let us be true.
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams…” (Arnold 1867).
These lines confirm my suggestion as for the elements of Romanticism.
To my mind, Arnold also pays special attention to the symbolic meaning of water. Taking into account the context of his poem, it is obvious that sea/water is associated with tears and sadness.
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“Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea” (Arnold 1867).
These lines are mostly related to the theme of human isolation and sadness.
So, the second poem I want to disclose is The Dover Bitch: A Criticism of Life written by Anthony Hecht. First of all, I must say that the second poem is recognized to be a parody. Anthony Hecht disclosed the same themes, which Arnold’s poem included. However, the principal difference is that Hecht added some humor:
So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl
With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them,
And he said to her, “Try to be true to me,
And I’ll do the same for you, for things are bad
All over, etc., etc.” (Hecht).
Samman is of the opinion that, “Hecht’s goal in writing this satire is to respond to many readers who feel that Arnold has taken love and women and made them a last resort” (1). In my opinion, the author discloses the weaknesses of Arnold’s poem.
When analyzing the first piece of writing, it was obvious that Arnold worried about losing the Victorians’ faith; so, Hecht’s poem seems to be mostly satirical, although some critics do not agree with the opinion. On the contrary, they suppose that the second poet’s humor is healthy.
The main difference between the speakers in both poems is the relationship with the female character. Of course, it is obvious that both speakers are male visitors; however, it seems that Hecht is criticizing romantic love, which Arnold depicts in his poem. “By making the female character a prostitute in Hecht’s poem it criticizes Arnold’s sad comments about holding onto one another because faith has left, so there is nothing left for humanity but the platitudes of romantic love” (Samman 3). Generally, the female seems to be a background figure in both poems. Thus, the common feature between Arnold’s poem and Hecht’s one is that the female voice is limited.
While comparing two poems, it becomes evident that Arnold’s piece of writing requires more emotionality.
Generally, the first poem seems to be more important, as it is original; the second poem reflects only the author’s respond. So, this means that Arnold depicted the so-called true of life; while Hecht’s poem doesn’t bring something new.
Arnold, Matthew. Dover Beach, n.d. Web.
Hecht, Anthony. The Dover Beach: A Criticism of Life. n.d. Web.
Samman, Mariam. Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”, 2007. Web.