Summary of “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold was a school inspector by profession. He was a British poet and a cultural critic, who has been characterized as a sage writer.

Since he was appointed as a school inspector, he was a man of those days who had traveled the most across the Europe, and knew the society of provincial England better than nay other politician or author and this did help in his vision of writing.

In the year 1852, Arnold published his second volume of poems and by the year 1857, Arnold was elected as Professor of poetry at the Oxford.

According to G W E Russell, Arnold was a man of the world, entirely free from worldliness and man without the faintest traits of pedantry.


Arnold knew very well where his poems had a place and how the recognition would follow. He is sometimes also called as the third great Victorian poet. When compared to other poets of his time, his work was judged by it simplicity, straight-forwardness, use of far-fetched words, and the ease to read because of the usage of simple words.

The poem Dover Beach depicts a nightmarish world from where the old religious verities have receded. He expresses his thoughts and strong feelings here that life has to be lived full on earth and not spent dreaming to inherit the eternal bliss one day.

In this poem, Arnold says that, he stands at the shore of the sea, watching the sandy shores. There is a gentle breeze, that blows gently and the sea looks calm for the night. The moon shines bright and tides are calm even though they have the full potential. The moonlight spreads across the French coast to the English Channel and diminishes to the bay of England.

At this point, the poet invites his friend, companion to come and share with him this beautiful moment of the sea. These silent visuals could be seen only from the deck at the evenings and the roar of the sea when the pebbles cross over to the high sandy beaches and back could be heard at times. This would continue and slowly would bring the sad memories across the minds of the viewer.


The sound that reflects from a distant north sea brings back memories of the human misery and the sufferings that people had to undergo. The tides as they wash and go, led him to old memories that also comes and goes like the waves.

Towards the end of the poem, the poet says that the world was once a beholder of faith and it outstretched to all the shores that the water reached and was like a bright girdle chord worn around the waist that was firm.

However, the sounds of the waves at the sea now only represent melancholy and retreating when the night wind blows over the beaches that are covered with coarse sand and large stones.

And at the end, the poet asks his friend to be honest to each other, for the world that they live in looks very beautiful and new and lay before them like a land full of dreams. However, there is no certainty for help in times of trouble and he concludes saying that al the mortals live in this world with a dark state of mind and the struggle for survival is in no way different from the armies at the boarders that are ignorant and fight throughout the night for their nation.


A wonderfully maid poem with lots of thoughts and expression put together that brings this poem different from all others.

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