Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

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What are the historical and geographical refrences in Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach"?

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"Dover Beach", by 19th century poet Matthew Arnold, is an elegy on the retreat of faith - under the twin assaults of science and rationalism - from the contemporary world. Both the setting of the poem, and its historical allusions undergird this theme. Arnold wrote the poem in 1851 during or shortly after he and his new bride visited Dover Beach, located on the south coast of England, a mere 21 miles from the French port city of Calais. This geography appears in the poem in the first stanza: 

The tide is full, the moon lies fair/Upon the straits; on the French coast the...

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