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Dover Beach VS Dover Bitch

Updated on June 17, 2014

"Dover Beach" is a romantic poem and some say that it was written around the time of Matthew Arnold's honeymoon, possibly being him conversing with his bride. The poem seems to have the speaker taking in the moment shared with hi lover or new bride. He uses words that illustrate romance and this epic kind of love when he uses words like: "glimmering", "tranquil", "tremulous", "eternal", and so on. He uses these words to describe the sights and sounds around him in that special moment which helps to heighten the romantic feel of the poem. The speaker wants his lover to see what he does, as if she were looking through his eyes. The beginning of the poem starts out as being calm and beautiful with this scene on a beach and these two lovers watching the tide under the moonlight, but as the poem progresses we she a different tone. Arnold seems to be using the sea or ocean tides as a metaphor for love and having faith in ones love. It's as if the tides are things to overcome in ones relationship. It's very romantic to use the ocean tides as a metaphor for love because they are forever changing and to have ones love change and stir up new exciting ventures it what one truly seeks when they find that one person to share their love with. They never want to stand still like a wading pool, no they want their love to flourish and grow much like the ocean tides.

Now while the ocean tides can be very romantic and bring forth new ventures in love, it can also be very unforgiving and can take away all that you worked so hard for. The ocean tides can be rough at times and drown you in illusions of different kinds of love and could possibly even cause your heart to stray from the one you vowed your life to. They can cause you to get pulled out into the depths of the ocean where you could lose the one you fell in love with, where you could lose yourself.

Dover Beach is a romanticized poem about love and faith in ones love. It's a poem that is both beautiful and frightening at the same time. The way Arnold uses the ocean here helps to give his readers a true understanding of what it means to be in love and how you have to overcome many obstacles to stay true to your love, true to your faith.

Then we have "Dover Bitch", now this poem is claimed by some to be mocking Matthew Arnold, but I believe it is merely a parody of sorts, a response if you will to Matthew Arnold. This poem written by Anthony Hecht is a poem that is clearly from a realist point of view or from someone who is focused on the physical. While reading the poem I pictured a strong woman who wasn't going to be held down by romances and far fetched dreams. This woman wouldn't be wooed by romanticized poetry comparing the ocean tides to the love two people have for one another.

First off in the first 5 lines the poet seems to disregard the beautiful language Arnold used in his poem, "Dover Beach", and just uses precise words to describe and convey different things. He takes the romance out of Arnold's description and replaces it with everyday language that, in my opinion is true to how most American men speak to women. They get right to the point they don't paint their language with fancy words to butter up their women they lay it out straight. Then by just using "etc., etc." instead of using more exact words shows the reader that the person in the poem doesn't care about the romantic side, they just want to get straight to the point.

Then when the poet writes: "all the time he was talking she had in mind / The notion of what his whiskers would feel like / On the back of her neck." (9-11). In those lines we see someone who lives in a physical type of reality. The poet is giving the woman's perspective while Matthew Arnold is reciting his beautiful words. She isn't even paying attention all she is thinking about is having him kiss her on the back of her neck and feeling his touch.

The readers get a sense of bitchiness further in the poem, the poet writes: "And then she got really angry. To have been brought / All the way down from London, and then be addressed / As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort / Is really tough on a girl, and she was real pretty. / Anyway, she watched him pace the room / And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit, / And then she said one or two unprintable things. / But you mustn't judge her by that." It's as if she can't deal with the romantics and just wants something real, but he isn't willing to give her that so she walks out.

It's interesting to get a different side of "Dover Beach" written by a different poet who thought what if the woman in the poem had a response to Matthew Arnold, what would she say? I love how Anthony tackles the character of a woman in his poem and it also shows how American writers differ from European writers. American writers are more versed in realist points of views whereas he European writers of this time romanticized everything.

Dover Beach


A Reading of Dover Bitch by Anthony Hecht

A reading of the paradoy poem by Anthony Hecht. The tone really helps get that sarcastic point across within the poem.

Cliffs of Dover



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