Monday, March 19, 2018

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

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.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
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
Heard it on the Aegean, 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.

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.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
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
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Every now and then I reach back to a poem which inspires me. Dover Beach is one of these.  Its haunting lyrics link sounds of tide and sea from an English beach scene on a moonlit night to a crisis of faith which Matthew Arnold was experiencing at the time. There are more than one or two lines that are still quoted today, though it was written in 1851. Matthew Arnold was a son of Thomas Arnold, who while headmaster of Rugby School, is credited with having a lasting effect on the development of public school education in England. (I bet you thought I was also going to say something about a certain oval ball game’s birthplace.)

News of No One Home’s book launch - it is set for Thursday 26 April at Unity Books, Wellington from 6.00 - 7.30 pm. A Facebook event page will be set up soon (where you can indicate whether you are coming) and email invitations will also be sent out.

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