Friday, November 16, 2007

Poetry Friday 71

For this week's Poetry Friday offering, I have a poem of Matthew Arnold's:

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's 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.

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 help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I find this poem incredibly evocative of the sea at night and can easily see in my mind's eye the scene that Arnold describes.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Big A, little a with Kelly H.

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In personal news, my mum's surgery went off OK yesterday and she's now back home with my dad and brother.


tanita✿davis said...

Ohh, this is a nice one. The final line is so nice - and the idea of waves withdrawing to "fling at their return" the sort of mindless numbing pounding of the surf. Really gorgeous, and so glad your Mom is okay.

Michele said...

It is gorgeous, isn't it ?

And thanks - just spoke to my Mum and she seemed quite cheerful in spite of having a rough time (the hospital appears to have been pretty disorganised in caring for her!)

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Those last few lines really stay with me. The beauty!

Glad your mom's doing OK.

Michele said...


Yes, those last few lines are definite stick-in-the-brain lines !

Anonymous said...

I love the entire final stanza, and particularly the words "darkling plain." The poem had me wrapped up tight much earlier, though, when I hit this line: "Begin, and cease, and then again begin"

His examination of the need for faith is achingly beautiful.

I am glad your mother is recovering, and am sending good thoughts her way.

Michele said...

Thanks - all good thoughts gratefully received and passed on...

And yes, the phrase "Darkling plain" is gorgeous!

And "Begin, and cease, and then again begin" sums up the action of the sea beautifully...

Camille said...

I was just getting ready to email you for an update on your mother. May her healing continue.

Michele said...

Thanks Camille.