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Dover Beach Revisited (rv)


dedalus
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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.
Quietly I stand by the ocean side
At another end of the bemused and battered world,
I listen! I hear the sibilant sounds
Of crested waves come crossing the sand,
As an advancing army with banners unfurl’d,
Begin, and resume, in a manner planned,
Their marching cadence upon the land
Where I and other humans stand.
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.
Yes, we shall be true
To the promise! for the world, which moves
Away from us, so often proves
To favour the selected few
Who stoop and then take up the strain
Of what they know is right,
And who then exert their might,
In the face of mockery and lasting pain,
To make this world come right again.

 

 

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Your lines illuminate a way to teach and understand the poets life and times. The counterpoints provide an enlightened contrast to Arnold's bleak metaphors. I envy your energy! Enjoyed. B.

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  • 2 weeks later...
David W. Parsley

Brendan, you old Romantic, this piece really moves me. Like most readers I suppose, I have long held "Dover Beach" to be one of my favorite poems. The original instills a sense of the vast world at its most random and impersonal, beautiful but blind forces bounded only by natural laws and the limits of various desires. And in that very context, surely the bleakest of world views (more bleak even than a universe of malice, since even infinite malice may be opposed), the poet finds his center of hope and worthy passion shared with the beloved. One of the moving epiphanies of Literature.

 

Your take on this still contemporary masterpiece is a well considered meditation mixed with a more restless and perhaps more noble resolve - to not submit or despair for the rest, but to take arms against the pitilessness and lack of meaning. And yet the insights and pathos of the original are still respected. I like the deliberate craft and rhyme scheme, summoning of image and sound to walk beside Arnold's evocations in common understanding. Even the contractions are no accident, but appreciative nods to the age that bore the original insight. I am gratified and impressed.

 

Thank you,

- Dave

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On the "white cliffs" stand your protagonists who struggle for integrity in the face of unending adversity, anonymous. Beautiful, meaningful thoughts to savor. Priceless.

Paco

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  • 2 weeks later...
David W. Parsley

Did I mention how much I enjoy this tasteful, evocative, thoughtful, impassioned piece?

 

bump

dave

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Many thanks, Dave.

 

It was an interesting poem to write as the rhyming scheme in the original is a tad eccentric if not erratic (not something we tend to notice) and I wanted to keep to that while doing more than just rephrasing Arnold's powerful lines, but creating a response.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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I visited Dover Beach in Nov. 2006 just for the sake of the poem. By random, I saw a grey and gloomy sky, a comparatively quiet and powerful sea, a wind just sending the ribbons on our clothe waving and a whole beach of light-yellow pebbles. We had thought, before that, that the poem is inconsistent with its rhyme scheme and not equal in line length and stanza lines, and furthermore, there seems to be no regular meter and no order. Now I see it's all natural. It imitates the uncontrollable law of nature; and the faith of man is no longer in God only; it's changing and moving to nature again and to man itself.

Thanks. Harold

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We had thought, before that, that the poem is inconsistent with its rhyme scheme and not equal in line length and stanza lines, and furthermore, there seems to be no regular meter and no order. Now I see it's all natural.

 

 

This is a good observation, Harold, and I think it makes a lot of sense. The poem felt so familiar that I was was thrown back a little when I examined the rhyme scheme and metrics, found them rather irregular, and then made the attempt to follow them. I think it says a lot for the poem that many readers neither notice nor care, as the drive and content is so powerful.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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