Anxiety: Romantic Poetry and Dover Beach Essay

Submitted By Cryyae
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Anxieties of the Victorian Age

In the poem Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold discusses the issues of a country who is said to be newly budding, yet there are still numerous problems and debates that have been suppressed. His criticism of England plays a major role in this piece of writing. He calls into question the morals and ethics of the people and the topics that they debate, including religion, science, and the purpose that they have in society. He uses his optimism, to promote criticisms of such topics. Throughout “Dover Beach” it is noted that his criticism of science and religion are prominent points within the poem. Many Victorians were obsessed with this debate, as to whether which was more important than the other. “The Sea of Faith, Was once, too, at the full and round earths 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.” [21-28] This portion of the poem, suggests a sense of longing, for the way things once were. The Victorian Age constantly longs for the past religious ideas. The concept that the world may not hold the same faith that it once did, scared many Victorians, and there longing for what they had always known, is a typical ideal for this time period. The world no longer offers the joys and comforts that it once did. Arnold says “ If I have insisted so much on the course which criticism must take where politics and deliration are concerned, it is because, where these burning matters are I question, it is most likely to go astray. [Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume e, page 1416] Arnold is well known for his constant criticism of England, and his skepticism of the way society had been running. His belief was that philosophy and criticism could create and promote ideas. With his criticism of England, he becomes absurdly nationalistic. “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 the help for pain;” [29-34] The pain that people feel, the want and need for peace, are not met by the way England is being run. This skepticism is popular, and Arnold promotes the idea that criticism is actually the foundation for this era. His being critical of English policy and English leadership are popular things, that constantly came under fire by the authors of this time. It was popular to question authority, and criticize the way things were done. The way that Arnold describes the