Dover Beach is one of the great poems in the English language. Written by Mathew Arnold (1822-1888), known more for his great cultural and literary criticism rather than his poetry, this poem nevertheless is a gem of beauty. It may been known to many people, but in today’s educational and cultural environment, I would not be surprised if many students graduating from a university with a degree in English have never even read this. After all, Arnold was not a black lesbian; rather, as a white male he is officially one of the great enemies of the modern Leftist zeitgeist which dominates nearly all of academia.
Still, great poetry fortunately transcends the idiocies of modern thought. What is hauntingly beautiful about his poem is the deep melancholy expressed, a melancholy which is born from the deepening lack of religious faith that Arnold saw overtaking his society. The world in which this poem was written, that of Victorian England at its most glorious, might seem today exceedingly religious. And yet for Arnold, it was not. Imagine what he would think of today’s world.
In addition to a poem about faith, it is also a love poem. Arnold is addressing his young wife in the poem, “Ah, love, let us be true/ to one another!” and he appeals to the power of love to help overcome the dissolution of religious belief.
The beauty of great poem does wonders for the soul. Like good music, it is really not something that can be truly quantified, but rather, it is better simply to appreciate it, to let it infuse the mind and heart with whatever nuances and images and verbal rhythms and echoes it possesses. And this poem possesses all that to the full.