The best poems of Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold (1822-88) is largely remembered for one great Victorian poem: ‘Dover Beach’. But he wrote a number of other classic poems beside this. What are the best half-dozen of Matthew Arnold’s poems? We offer our recommendations below. ‘Dover Beach’ is there, as are a few other more famous titles, but we also include a couple which, although not as celebrated as the others, are, we believe, among Arnold’s best poetry.
‘Below the surface-stream, shallow and light’. This poem is almost like a fragment of blank verse, its five unrhymed iambic pentameter lines appearing to offer a brief insight into the speaker’s mind, though this thought isn’t taken anywhere or developed into some grand psychodrama or narrative. In a curious way, the poem reads like a Victorian precursor to the Imagist poetry of the early twentieth century. If you want a nice short introduction to Arnold’s poetry, this is the perfect place to start. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of ‘Dover Beach’ by Matthew Arnold
‘Dover Beach’ is one of the best-known and best-loved of Victorian poems, and the most widely anthologised poem by a Victorian figure whose poetic output was considerably slimmer than that of many of his contemporaries, such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson or Robert Browning. Time has not been overly kind to Matthew Arnold either: the poems for which he is remembered in the popular imagination tend to be confined to ‘The Scholar-Gipsy’, ‘To Marguerite: Continued’, ‘Shakespeare’, and – most of all – ‘Dover Beach’, which has been subjected to much critical analysis already. Here is Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’, the poem which sums up an era, along with a few words about its language and meaning.
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. Read the rest of this entry