On a Darkling Plain – “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold

I stumbled on this wonderful old poem today and was wracked  once more by its beauty – in structure, meter, image, theme, everything in the poetics toolkit-so masterfully melded, pulled together, so plaintively and  profoundly phrased,no wonder that it’s a poem emeritus in the canon of English verse.

Perhaps you will appreciate it too.


Dover Beach

By Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
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 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 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.



About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
This entry was posted in Literature, poetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to On a Darkling Plain – “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold

  1. lahowlett says:

    Beautiful, Margaret. I remember recording this one as part of the Weekly Poetry project for LibriVox.org


  2. Wonderful! I didn’t know you did that sort of thing, Lee Ann. Magnificent! Takes quite a talent to read poetry and fiction aloud effectively for an public audience. Marvelous. What else have you recorded?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lahowlett says:

      I actually began volunteering for LibriVox when I was still working as a university librarian, Margaret. I started in early spring 2007. When I retired as a librarian, I decided to give it a go as a professional — that was early 2011. I still like to participate in the weekly poetry reading on LibriVox. I don’t do as much other work (solos of books or group participation in books) for LV due to narrating for pay now. I always look forward to seeing which poem will be chosen as the weekly read, though. My readings for LibriVox are here: https://librivox.org/reader/1212?primary_key=1212&search_category=reader&search_page=1&search_form=get_results

      With your love of poetry, you should look into volunteering for LibriVox. All are welcome from all around the world!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is amazing Lee Ann! What news! And now, having honed your skills, to get some $ recognition and appreciation for them! Good for you. I will explore your link with interest. Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lee Ann, did a quick look, and I am knocked out, bowled over, at the number of great works you have narrated. Good heavens. It will take me years to listen to them all. Bravo, grrrl!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much for introducing me to it. Am so impressed 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mikels Skele says:

    Well, this is just beautiful, and reminds us what poetry really is: a love affair with language.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, how right you are, Mikels! “A love affair with language!”


  8. gravbeast says:

    Reblogged this on Maddening mutterings and commented:
    A favourite poem of mine – “Dover Beach”, by Matthew Arnold – courtesy of Margaret Langstaff.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s