Dover Beach : Implying Love is the only consolation in the spiritual wasteland


Dover Beach  : By Matthew Arnold

    Love is the only consolation in the contemporary              spiritual wasteland –

Question : How does the poem “Dover Beach” imply that in the contemporary spiritual wasteland, love is the only consolation ? 

    Answer : In most of the lines of the poem  “Dover Beach”, Matthew Arnold explored the theme of loss of faith in God and religion, but in the last stanza, Arnold has depicted the comforting power of love. Thus it can be said that  ” Dover Beach”, on one level can certainly be called a love poem.

      Arnold feels that the world is empty of faith and love and full of trouble. So, at the start of the last stanza, he turns to his love and hopes for some solace. As he says – 

     “Ah, love, let us be true / To one another !”

He hopes that love can give him hope  for the world . The world, which is apparently beautiful is in fact  not so. The poet believes that the world only looks beautiful and new but in  reality it has – 

     “neither joy, nor love, nor light

      Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain”.

Although the world looks new and beautiful like a land of dreams but in reality this world does not really have joy, love, light, peace, certitude or any help for pain.  He describes the world as ” a darkling plain” means a dark plain which is becoming even darker as the time passes.

      The world has become a contemporary spiritual wasteland, which is marked by a selfish, cynical, amoral and materialistic battlefield full of hatred and pain where there is no guiding light.

       Arnold compares the world without faith in God and religion with a battlefield at night, where soldiers rush, pursuing and firing at shadows unable to tell friend from foe;  it is a dark plain 

     “Where ignorant armies clash by night”.

He compares the people struggling and running in their ambitions to  the armies fighting at night, unknown to why and with whom they are fighting. 

      Arnold firmly believes that Christianity is dead, and his instincts tell him that humankind desires for something to believe in something which can give force and meaning to life.

    The modern world, with its science and commercialism, cannot provide what human beings desire.

     Arnold believes that only love and compassion can somehow restore man’s faith in religion and in the goodness of the world. Thus, the speaker turns to his love and says  that they should be true to each other, because there is nothing else possible to give meaning to life. Love  and and being true to one another is an Oasis of  security when turmoil abounds in the world. 

       This is romantic love  at its most radical. Without love, between  a man  and a woman, the world is as confusing and as lethal as a night  battlefield.

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