Matthew Arnold was born on December 24, 1822, in a small town of Laleham, in England. His father, Thomas Arnold, became famous as an educational and religious leader. Thomas Arnold was the leader of Rugby School; he reformed his students’ moral and spiritual values and prepared them to become responsible leaders in a rapidly changing society. He was also an active proponent of the Christian and Unified National Church, and he wrote on religious and political issues. Matthew Arnold followed his father’s footsteps of being a Christian as he carried on his father’s work.
Arnold had been writing and lecturing mainly about religion. One of his most famous poems, “Dover Beach”, was written in 1851, during a visit to the Dover region of Southeastern England, which was the setting of the poem. In “Dover Beach”, Matthew Arnold expressed his anxiety about the rapidly changing faith of people in God and religion. Historical context In Arnold’s time, much of the era’s knowledge in science had advanced. As the people’s knowledge progressed, there emerged many people who were critical of the Bible – among them, Galileo Galilei and Charles Robert Darwin.
They challenged religion’s explanations for the present way of the world. Galileo Galilei published the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe. Conversely, Charles Robert Darwin showed that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and he proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process called natural selection. He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book entitled On the Origin of Species.
These theories made the general public come to accept evolution as a fact. Under this scientific evidence, people started to accept the world of science as the best description of how nature came to be, and not religion. The world was not as the Bible stated that humans are created by God, and that the sun rotates around the earth. In fact, man was simply the product of evolution, and human presence on earth was only because he had survived the battle for the “survival of the fittest. ” Poem Analysis
In the poem “Dover Beach”, Arnold described his age as one of “bewildering confusion” and “spiritual discomfort” during the mid-nineteenth century in England. Arnold begins his poem with a description of the seashore in the moonlight: “The Sea is calm tonight. The tide is full, the moon lies fair upon the straits…. ” Later on, he gives an indirect contrast to his description of the seashore; the speaker begins to describe the movement of the waves. Arnold uses words like “grating roar” and “fling” to express his feeling of tension.
He then describes the way the waves pick up the small stones when they move across the shoreline: “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. ” Those motions of the waves described the sadness in the poet: “Eternal note of sadness”. He expressed his sadness again later in the phrase “human misery” and seems to describe the malaise of people throughout history.
In the third stanza of the poem, the sea is turned into a metaphoric “Sea of Faith”— “a symbol for a time when religion could still be experienced without the doubts brought about by progress and science. ” In these lines the speaker expresses the idea that watching the sea has elicited. The poet said, “Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore, but now I only hear”. In the line above, the poet suggests the good day that had faith is now in the past. However, the “Sea of Faith” has receded.
Arnold used words like “melancholy,” “withdrawing roar,” “retreating,” “drear,” and “naked” to express his feelings of loss and despair. In “Dover Beach”, Arnold addressed the main issue in his era which is the death of Christianity. People’s reason, knowledge as well as investigation in the eighteenth-century had brought up many criticisms about the Bible and concerns about the religious and historical icon, Jesus — issues which had convinced Arnold that a reasonable person could no longer believe in Christianity. References Wikipedia, Matthew Arnold, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Matthew_ArnoldSample Essay of Paperial.com