What does the poem mean?

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Arnold’s poem represents a doubt in both faith and society, a theme common to the Victorian era. In the first and second stanzas, Arnold describes the beach setting in terms of poetic techniques: The rhythm and cadence of the ocean create a mood. He remarks how Sophocles once heard in those same sounds “a thought,” as if poetic thought cannot help but arise from observations on nature.But Arnold’s crisis of faith makes it impossible for him to see the landscape as anything but symbolic of the loss of faith which he believes is breaking apart the society of his time.

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