I consider this to be one of the major lyric poems of the 19th century. A lot of people would agree with me. If I had continued my literature studies many years ago, I would have specialized in the Victorians. They understood the crisis that was coming upon our civilization with the fading of Christianity. Arnold looks a little foolish now with his hope that culture (in the old-fashioned sense--knowledgeable, thoughtful, humane) would or could fill the gap. But he saw the problem.
DOVER BEACHThe sea is calm tonight.The tide is full, the moon lies fairUpon the straits; on the French coast the lightGleams 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 sprayWhere the sea meets the moon-blanched land,Listen! you hear the grating roarOf 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 bringThe eternal note of sadness in.Sophocles long agoHeard it on the Ægean, and it broughtInto his mind the turbid ebb and flowOf human misery; weFind also in the sound a thought,Hearing it by this distant northern sea.The Sea of FaithWas once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shoreLay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.But now I only hearIts melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,Retreating, to the breathOf the night-wind, down the vast edges drearAnd naked shingles of the world.Ah, love, let us be trueTo one another! for the world, which seemsTo 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 plainSwept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,Where ignorant armies clash by night.