Matthew Arnold: Poems

A critical Appreciation of Dover Beach College

“Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold was first published in the anthology titled New Poems in 1867.The poem laments the transition from an era of spiritual faith and harmony to an era of rapid erosion of tradition and faith. It is Arnold’s critique of the Victorian society, where unprecedented industrialization and groundbreaking scientific discoveries caused a paradigm shift in man’s perception of himself. The age-old theocentric identity eroded away to make for an anthropocentric understanding of man. This, along with the rising materialism brought about the loss of harmony among men.

This poem gives poignant expression to Arnold’s own pessimism about the mechanical Victorian age where men became rootless without the unifying bond of religion. The preoccupation with this crisis is also reflected in Arnold’s other poems like “The Scholar Gipsy” in which he reiterates man’s sense of disassociation and social fragmentation rising from religious doubt. This, he popularly refers to as the “strange disease of modern life”. The poem deceptively opens with the tranquil image of the glimmering sea in the moonlight where the speaker looks out at the sea from his vantage point at Dover beach. But readers soon realize that beneath this veneer...

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