List words which relate to sadness in Arnold's "Dover Beach."

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Considering Arnold's "Dover Beach" veers to the side of pessimism, there are lots of words that relate to sadness.  With the exception of the first stanza that focuses on the positive aspects of the sea, the negative images begin in the second stanza and never cease.  The second stanza focuses on the negative aspects of the ocean with its "moon-blanched land" and its "grating roar" and its "tremulous cadence slow" bringing the "eternal note of sadness in."  Even in the third stanza when the speaker mentions the past, sadness still stands paramount with the "turbid ebb and flow / Of human misery."

Of course, the crux of the poem stands in the two metaphorical stanzas at the end, both of which contain many words of sadness.  Stanza four, that focuses on the "Sea of Faith" is very sad indeed.  Where there was faith in the speaker's mind, now there is nothing.

Now I only hear / Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, / Retreating, to the breath / Of the night wind, down the vast edges dream / And naked shingles of the world.

Finally, as the speaker begs for lovers to remain true, sadness stands paramount yet again in one of the bleakest statements in the poem.  The world that once seemed beautiful and new is now bereft of beauty and happiness.

[The world] 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.

"Dover Beach" is obviously not a poem to cultivate happiness within the reader.