Dover Beach "We Are Here As On A Darkling Plain"
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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"We Are Here As On A Darkling Plain"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Arnold, critic of nineteenth-century life, saw in his contemporaries only narrowness in thought and confusion in religion. Observing with a loved one the ebb and flow of the full sea, which brings in an "eternal note of sadness," he is reminded that Sophocles heard the same sound on the Aegaean. To Arnold, the "Sea of Faith" was once full, but only a melancholy, withdrawing roar comes to the land now. He pleads with his love to remain with him to soften the harshness of the religious and political struggles. He says:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
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.