Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On Dover's Beach

On Dover's Beach
by Gideon Burton
after Matthew Arnold (see below)

Calm sea, full tide, fair moon upon the straits.
The cliffs of England standing vast and grand.
Come to the window, sweet the air that sprays
where -- look -- the glimmering sea meets moon-blanched land.
And listen, hear the grating pebbles roar
as waves draw back and fling them up the strand
in cadence slow, returning as before,
the same that Sophocles found sadly bland.
The Sea of Faith once folded-golden full
withdraws in melancholy moaning back,
so many pebbles roughened down to dull,
as night winds' naked edges sink to black.
     This darkling plain, this world, sans joy and light--
     My love, be true, for we are swept by night.

Photo: flickr - Stuart Hines

Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straights; -- 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-blanch'd 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 Ægean, 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 furl'd.
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.


  1. This is one of my favorite poems, that I have read so far, from the Victorian Era. It took guts to adapt it to a sonnet. That is creative. Matthew Arnold is an under rated poet. He should be talked about more. He's right up there with Tennyson and Browning, in my opinion. His peers criticized him pretty harshly though, so he gave up and wrote essays for the rest of his life.

  2. I just recently memorized Dover Beach. I really like what you have done with it. :) It reminds me of your classes and how we would practice imitating. I am trying to get back into writing. Perhaps I will dabble with more imitating.

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  4. I am impressed how you kept the integrity of the original poem in your beautiful sonnet. The same ebb and flow of his poem are in yours. Also I was able to gain the same insights from your poem and in only a few words.