Please summarize Matthew Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach."

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Matthew Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach", is a four stanza poem written as a dramatic monologue. The speaker is looking out of a window over the English Channel towards the shores of France. The addressee is a woman with whom the speaker is in love.

The speaker discusses the beauty of the scenery, mentioning the way the white cliffs look in the moonlight and the sweet scent of the sea air. Rather than the tone being joyful though, it is melancholic, mourning the fading of faith and certainty from the modern world. He attributes the notion of the melancholy of the sea receding after high tide to his favorite poet, Sophocles. 

The final stanza suggest that the beauty of the scenery covers up the powerful and destructive forces of nature. He suggests that individual love of one another is the only possible response to this awareness of the nature of the world once faith has receded.