By Matthew Arnold
What feelings does this poem evoke? What
creates this feeling?
Arnold composed this poem in 1851, the year he was
married, while on one of two trips to the Dover
region of England with his wife. He did not publish
the poem until 1867.
The Origin of
Although he was a believer in God and religion, he
was open to—and advocated—an overhaul of
traditional religious thinking. In God and the
Bible, he wrote: "At the present moment two
things about the Christian religion must
surely be clear to anybody with eyes in his
head. One is, that men cannot do without it; the other, that they cannot do
with it as it is."
• He describes himself as “Wandering
between two worlds, one dead, / The other
powerless to be born” (‘Stanzas from the
Grande Chartreuse’, ll. 85-86).
R. L. Brett, Professor of English
at University of Hull, believes
that Arnold saw great poetry
as “a glass in which men could
discern an image of eternal
truth…The Bible for him was
the supreme example”
In an 1869 letter to his mother, he wrote: “ My poems represent, on the whole, the
main movement of mind of the last quarter of a century, and thus they will probably
have their day as people become conscious to themselves of what that movement of
mind is, and interested in the literary productions which reflect it. It might be fairly
urged that I have less poetical sentiment than Tennyson and less intellectual vigour
and abundance than Browning; yet because I have perhaps more of a fusion of the
two than either of them, and have more regularly applied that fusion to the main line
of modern development, I am likely enough to have my turn as they have had theirs."
G. K. Chesterton said
that Arnold was
"perhaps the most
serious man alive."
HW: Reread the poem and respond to the
following in your CRJ
1. Knowing some very brief context for this poem, what
do you consider to be the poem’s central point? How
do the speaker’s descriptions of the ocean work
toward making that point?
2. What details of the beach seem related to the ideas in
the poem? How is the sea used differently in lines 114 and 21-28?
3. Describe the differences in tone between lines 1-8 and
35-37. What has caused this change? Explain how the
language in these lines works to convey their