Beyond “Dover Beach”

 

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So this April I am mixing my poetry with lots of cool poetry by people who are not me, the famous and the not-so-much.

Matthew Arnold’s best known poem is “Dover Beach,” written on his honeymoon in the south of England while war was going on (Napoleon?) on the Continent. But he wrote other stuff. This poem has the weird rhyme scheme: ABBB, CDBD, EFFF, GHIH, JKLK, MBMB, NONO, PBPB, QQBB. I am pretty sure this is not a classical rhyme scheme. I think he was just messing with us to get his point across, and having been born way too early for modernism, used rhyme anyhow because there were no other options.

Self-Dependence

Weary of myself, and sick of asking
What I am, and what I ought to be,
At this vessel’s prow I stand, which bears me
Forwards, forwards, o’er the starlit sea.

And a look of passionate desire
O’er the sea and to the stars I send:
‘Ye who from my childhood up have calm’d me,
Calm me, ah, compose me to the end!

‘Ah, once more,’ I cried, ‘ye stars, ye waters,
On my heart your mighty charm renew;
Still, still let me, as I gaze upon you,
Feel my soul becoming vast like you!’

From the intense, clear, star-sown vault of heaven,
Over the lit sea’s unquiet way,
In the rustling night-air came the answer:
‘Wouldst thou be as these are? Live as they.

‘Unaffrighted by the silence round them,
Undistracted by the sights they see,
These demand not that the things without them
Yield them love, amusement, sympathy.

‘And with joy the stars perform their shining,
And the sea its long moon-silver’d roll;
For self-poised they live, nor pine with noting
All the fever of some differing soul.

‘Bounded by themselves, and unregardful
In what state God’s other works may be,
In their own tasks all their powers pouring,
These attain the mighty life you see.’

O air-born voice! long since, severely clear,
A cry like thine in mine own heart I hear:
‘Resolve to be thyself; and know that he,
Who finds himself, loses his misery!’

2 comments on “Beyond “Dover Beach”

  1. PJS says:

    Wow. I don’t know too much about Arnold, but this poem shows how much he — considered one of the great Victorian poets — was influenced by the Romantics.

    Liked by 1 person

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