“Dover Beach” 6×12, oil on canvas, $150.00 Buy Now


Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold


The sea is calm tonight.

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-blanched 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 Ægean, 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 furled.

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.


I loved this poem when I was in college which is funny because I was more an idealist then– the despair and misery of it were all but lost on me. Alone in my room,  I used to read it out loud because I loved the way it sounds, particularly the last stanza: “for the world which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams…” I loved that rhyme because  you couldn’t dwell on it, the enjambment of the poem forced you to continue. Tension.

I’m not sure how I feel about the poem now. I’m not sure which lines I was trying to capture with my painting, perhaps the “turbid ebb and flow”.

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