"Melancholy, Long, Withdrawing Roar"
Context: With a loved one, the poet looks out across the Straits of Dover toward the French coast and listens to the endless washing movement, landward and seaward, of the waves which seem to him to "bring/ The eternal note of sadness in." In ancient Greece, Sophocles heard the sound and was reminded of "the turbid ebb and flow/ Of human misery. . . ." To Arnold, whose religious faith–like that of many of his contemporaries–had been weakened by the influence of such scientific ideas as those of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, the waves' sound has a very different meaning, and he sadly comments:
The Sea of FaithWas once, too, at the full, and round earth's shoreLay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.But now I only hearIts melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,Retreating, to the breathOf the night-wind, down the vast edges drearAnd naked shingles of the world.