Archive | February 2015

On Dover Beach

Lately I’ve found myself drawn repeatedly to Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach“, which is one of the great poems of English literature. It is difficult for me to read this poem, because it is full of the despair of existence, and it anticipates Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God by two decades, at least. In that sense, it expresses something quintessential about the modern mood, which is already traceable in the earlier poetry of John Donne (1572 – 1631) and William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) – the eclipse of the soul; the looming dark night of the soul. The death of God was already anticipated by Donne much earlier, in his great poem “An Anatomy of the World“.

“Dover Beach”, it seems to me, stands somewhere between Donne’s “Anatomy of the World” and Nietzsche’s final pronouncement of the “death of God”. It expresses the world as the realisation of “Single Vision & Newtons sleep” as William Blake anticipated with dread and horror — the Kali Yuga.

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