“Dover Beach” is a dramatic monologue of thirty-seven lines, divided into four unequal sections or “paragraphs” of fourteen, six, eight, and nine lines. In the title, “Beach” is more significant than “Dover,” for it points at the controlling image of the poem.
On a pleasant evening, the poet and his love are apparently in a room with a window affording a view of the straits of Dover on the southeast coast of England, perhaps in an inn. The poet looks out toward the French coast, some twenty-six miles away, and is attracted by the calm and serenity of the scene: the quiet sea, the moon, the blinking French lighthouse, the glimmering reflections of the famous white cliffs of Dover. He calls his love to the window to enjoy the …show more content…
Arnold reinforces the impact of these images with an often subtle but evocative use of sound and syntax. The convoluted syntax of lines 7 through 14, coming as it does after the plain statements of the opening, reflects not only the actual repetitive sound of the scene but perhaps also the confusion and lack of certainty in the poet’s own mind. The first fourteen lines may well also suggest a sonnet, since this gives certain appearances that it is a love poem. While the rhyme scheme and line length do not conform to the sonnet tradition, the poem is divided into octave and sestet by the turn at the first word of the ninth line, “Listen!” As if to further emphasize this line, which begins with “Listen!” and ends with “roar,” it is the only line in the whole poem that does not rhyme.
Themes and Meanings
The prose work of Matthew Arnold, addressed to a more general audience, attempts to suggest to those of his day some relatively public, institutional substitute for the loss of the unifying faith that men once shared, most notably what Arnold called “Culture.” Arnold’s poetry, however, is more personal and ultimately less assured. Virtually all of Arnold’s poetry is the record of his personal search for calm, for objectivity, for somewhere firm to stand.
As a broad generalization, the poem presents the common opposition between appearance and reality; the appearance is