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The Study of Poetry “Dover Beach” “The Dover Bitch” Matthew Arnold Anthony Hecht
The Study of Poetry <ul><li>Poetry has a function: to interpret life for us </li></ul><ul><li>In a world in which we don’t know what to believe, poetry works as a guide, a truth </li></ul><ul><li>2 fallacies: 1) the historic approach of the poem; 2) subjective impressionism (the personal view) </li></ul><ul><li>The power of true judgment is cultivated and the sensibility enlarged through a liberal education which includes the reading of poetry. </li></ul><ul><li>Mentions “poetic truth” and “high seriousness”, but does not define or explain them -> offers examples, “touchstones”, which present an “undefinable poetic quality”. </li></ul>
Study Questions “Dover Beach”/ “The Dover Bitch” <ul><li>1. How would you characterize the speaker’s tone of voice in Arnold’s poem? Does the tone stay the same throughout? </li></ul><ul><li>2. What do we learn about the relationship between the speaker and the person whom he addresses? How is this relationship connected to the speaker’s reflections on the general sorrow of life and the loss of faith? </li></ul><ul><li>3. What is the point of Hecht’s poem? Is he simply making fun of the stuffy, solemn author of “Dover Beach? </li></ul><ul><li>4. Does “The Dover Bitch,” to be effective, require that we know “Dover Beach”? If you came across Hecht’s poem by itself, and had never read Arnold’s poem, what do you imagine your response to “The Dover Bitch” would be? </li></ul>
“ Dover Beach” <ul><li>Form a dramatic monologue of thirty−seven lines, divided into four unequal sections or “paragraphs” of fourteen, six, eight, and nine lines. </li></ul><ul><li>More meditative and with lyric elements # from Browning and Tennyson’s monologues </li></ul><ul><li>Addressee: a beloved </li></ul><ul><li>Title “Beach” is more significant than “Dover,” for it points at the controlling image of the poem. </li></ul><ul><li>First image mixes sight and sound, describes a broad general view from the horizon </li></ul><ul><li>14th line “an eternal note of sadness” more than a simple description, that in view of what follows one shall have to reorient oneself to the significance of the initial description. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Second Image lines 25 through 28, expressing the emotional impact of the loss of faith, leaving emptiness and void. </li></ul><ul><li>Last image the reality of life a confused struggle, no light, nothing to distinguish good from evil, friend from foe; it is the result of the thought suggested by the sound of the surf. The poem makes clear that one is not viewing this battlefield as from a distance; one is in the middle of the fight. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Allusion: Sophocles and the Aegean Sea. </li></ul><ul><li>The second stanza of the poem makes an allusion to Sophocles, the Greek playwright, a man who knew how to represent human misery, and refers this back to how the speaker is experiencing an eternal saddens. Arnold writes, “Sophocles long ago heard it on the Aegean, and it brought into his mind the turbid ebb and flow of his human misery”. From a reader’s perspective, the allusion to Sophocles’ eternal misery clearly shows how the narrator shares this similar heartache. </li></ul>
Themes <ul><li>Appearance x reality the appearance is the opening six lines, which turn out to be a dream, while the reality of life, which the poet accepts, is the desolate beach and the confused battlefield. </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of faith Christianity was dead. The poem chronicles and laments the loss of faith and seeks a substitute the possibility of human love for another individual. </li></ul><ul><li>The possibility of love is a tentative at best, while the poet cannot seem to purge from his consciousness his dreadful vision of human life. </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict betweenb wisdom of the heart x head </li></ul><ul><li>Heart attracted by the pleasant appearance of the view from the window (the Dover Beach) </li></ul><ul><li>Head forced to take heed of the eternal sound of the surf, which says something entirely different. </li></ul><ul><li>Not a clear choice between the two; in fact, he accepts that the world is the way his reason tells him. Problem how to reconcile these apparently irreconcilable forces perhaps true love between two people can somehow supply meaning in a world that is still filled with confusion and struggle. </li></ul>
“The Dover Bitch” <ul><li>An irreverent but resonant sequel to Arnold’s poem. </li></ul><ul><li>1- The unnamed narrator of Hecht’s revision: suggests that the beloved woman on whom the poet counts on to be true to him is in fact vulgar and unfaithful. He even admits to occasional casual sex with her. </li></ul><ul><li>2- The speaker summarizes all of Arnold’s elegant words in barely three lines -> an implicit attack on the older poet’s verbosity. The “etc., etc.” ridicules “Dover Beach” for being redundant, as if one need not pay much attention to exactly what Arnold is saying beyond his banal affirmation of faithful love in a treacherous world </li></ul>
<ul><li>3- The final line of “The Dover Bitch” a further attack to the tradition of the well−made poem. “And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d’Amour ” hints at a physical longing that Arnold’s metaphysical abstractions leave unsatisfied. By contrast, Hecht’s speaker gives her Nuit d’Amour , which means “night of love” and provides an alternative, carnal version of love in answer to Arnold’s abstract meditations. </li></ul><ul><li>4- In spite of the mockery, Hecht’s dramatic monologue is a tribute to the power that its predecessor continues to exert. </li></ul><ul><li>5- “The Dover Bitch” a love poem, though it is a poem about love without illusions Hecht’s speaker offers a kind of love that is candid and carnal, and all the more ardent for his acceptance of his beloved’s imperfections </li></ul>