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Imagery in Dover Beach
Posted by: yma (
Date: November 03, 2000 10:25PM

Hi everyone. Could someone please give me info on the imagery used in Dover Beach? I am aare of the Visual and Auditory imagery but how does he manage to draw these from the natural world??
Am I making any sense??
Please help

RE: Imagery in Dover Beach
Posted by: Peter (
Date: November 05, 2000 02:59AM

I'm not exactly sure what your question is, but here are some thoughts on the poem itself - take from them what you will!

The poem 'Dover Beach' is a typical example of the work of Matthew Arnold. My
encyclopaedia (Collier's), in its summary of him and his work, says that he 'expresses
the essentially modern theme of the separateness and loneliness of individual men ...
often cast in the form(s) of an address .... to bring out the complexities of the subject.'
It goes on to say 'In "Dover Beach" a lover observing the sea at Dover and depressed by
gloomy thoughts of the ebbing sea of faith turns to his beloved for solace.'

The visual imagery, then, embraces those thoughts. Here we have, in the first five
lines, a supposed scene of goodness - the words 'calm', 'fair' and 'tranquil'; and the
picture of light on both sides of the Straits of Dover. The next word brings that to an
end - ONLY - and the words change the feeling from then onwards. 'Grating roar'
'tremulous cadence' and 'sadness' make it the poet's feelings clear.

In the second stanza Arnold turns to Classical Greece (his father, one-time head of
Rugby School, was a lifelong classical student), showing how his ideas mirror those of
Sophocles - the impetus taken from the sound of the 'turbid ebb and flow' of the oceans
taken on to mean that of 'human misery'.

Stanzas three and four, of course, moves us out of the natural world. It makes the sea
into a metaphor for life's woes. It still contains much of the imagery of the visual and
aural, still using the comparison of what it LOOKS like to what it actually is - 'it
seems/To lie before is like a land of dreams' - but in reality has 'neither joy .... not help
for pain'. Arnold was, like many of his contemporaries, extremely disturbed by the
apparent loss of religious acceptance of his day - people were crowding into cities
where there was little or no provision of either churches or schools to give the poor a
religious grounding. Small wonder that he felt so pessimistic as to write this poem!

I do hope this helps? There must be many interpretations of the poem!

Regards Peter

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