Dover Beach "The Sea Of Faith Was Once, Too, At The Full"
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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"The Sea Of Faith Was Once, Too, At The Full"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Arnold, critic of nineteenth century life, could not accept the old religious faith with its worn conventions and could find no solid basis for a new faith that he struggled toward. In "Dover Beach" he describes the ebb and flow of the sea, which brings in an "eternal note of sadness." His mind bridges the centuries to Sophocles, who heard the same note on the Aegaean. Arnold then compares the full tide of the sea at Dover Beach with the "Sea of Faith." He says:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.