Matthew Arnold first published the short lyric poem Dover Beach in 1867. The name, place of action, and the subject of the poem are the description of the shore of the English ferry port at Dover, Kent at the narrowest part of the English Channel (Fabb, 2002). This poem is difficult to analyze because many of metaphors have become so famous that it is very difficult to have a fresh look at it (Collini, 2008). Arnold reflects the loss of faith in the modern era and calls for the love. The poem cannot be named a usual one since the theme, tone, plot, and rhythm of the poem reflect high professionalism and unusual artistic perception of the surrounding by the author. Such an effect it achieved by the wide use of symbolism and rhythmic pattern of the poem, which create a deep background for the narrative story.
The poetry of Matthew Arnold is characterized by the unity of place and action, detachment, generality, and architecture - qualities that he opposes the disastrous confusion of everyday life. The Dover Beach is the best example of his unique writing style. One of the main elements uncovering all the beauty of narrative theme and message of the poem is its symbolism and rhythmic pattern. The poem has both naturalistic and social themes. First, it is the description of the nature around, its beauty and calmness. Second, the poet adverts to history (by mentioning ancient writers and thinkers) and to the connection between lovers and to the meaning of love.
Symbols in the poem are its main characters. Every natural element, every scene and view can be considered as a symbol. For example, sea is a powerful symbol since it begins the poem and the reader may think that sea is the topic of the poem. Here, sea is the symbol of calmness, the background for future nightmare. The mirror-like surface of the sea saw the fall of the Greek and Roman Empires and it is ready to see the fall of many future empires (Cillini, 2008). Sea as the symbol creates the background for the narrative story, shades it, and makes it deeper. The moon also is the symbol of calmness and it gives the light to the scene of the poem. Tides, as the moving water, are the appeal to the historical part of the poem. Its slow and repeated motion is a symbol of eternity. Therefore, it can be seen that symbols are literary elements that shades the main narrative story, makes the background for it and act as guides for the readers thoughts.
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Another important literary element used in this novel, which help the narrative theme to be clearer and simultaneously mysterious, is the rhythmic pattern. The essence of free verse does not break a stable rhythm, but creates more complex rhythmic patterns. Breaking the rhythm is apparent, because it is in the same context of the overall rhythm, but refreshing perception. In the Dover Beach, the main narrative is generally in harmony, but consists of dynamic splashes of life – passion and tragedy between lovers, the historical events, shaking the humanity. Therefore, abrupt and “jumping” rhythm for the poem only seems the mixture of line lengths. Different lengths of lines create an abstract representation of the view and thoughts in the narrative’s mind (Fabb, 2002). However, in total they represent harmony in chaos.
In conclusion, one can say that Dover Beach is an unusual poem. It has a unique narrative theme, which can be treated differently; it has various symbols that represent the love, historical perspective and beautiful nature. These literary elements help the narrative to be brighter, deeper and help to shade it. This poem makes people think of love and the connection between lovers. Simultaneously, the poem raises the topic of time and repetition of great historical events.