Dover Beach Background

Click the title to read the poem, "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold.

Directions: You can read about the background sites below on Dover, England.

This painting by William Burgess depicts an explosion at the
White Cliffs so the South Eastern Railway Co. could bring the
railroad into Dover, England from London. How does this
illustrate the Industrial Revolution for which Arnold's
speaker laments the psychological and religious impacts in the
poem. (Click the photo to go to a history of the town on the
website of the Dover Museum.)
For more pictorial views of Dover, click the photo at the left,
which shows Dover Castle from the western heights of the
cliffs.  The website you will click to was built by the Dover
[town] Council and shows a view looking down the chalk cliffs
onto the city of Dover, which seems to be built right on the
Straits of Dover, a portion of the English Channel that is only
22 miles wide at Dover, across from Calais, France. You can
also download a plug-in (6.8 Mb, Quick Time 3) and files
(about 400k each) to view "Virtual Dover." 
France.jpg (3500 bytes) The photo at left looks out from Dover Castle across the
harbor toward France, which is very faintly visible on the
horizon.  So Matthew Arnold's speaker really does see the lamplights of Calais, France, when he looks out his window in Dover on a calm, fair night. (Click the photo to go to an online copy of the poem.)

This view is a detail of the view east from above the famous white cliffs of Dover, with the English Channel beyond.  Click the photo to go to the Virtual Dover website, which includes tours of the modern area, including the harbor, and preserved portions of Dover Castle.

  Preview a biography of Matthew Arnold, citing his major themes and concerns.

   Here's another online biography that analyzes Arnold's major works.

Here's a student essay on "The Dover Bitch," a parody of "Dover Beach."  The essay is written by Bianca Rhiana of State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook.

Besides clicking on the title at the top of the page to access an online copy of the poem, here's another copy with scenery and music (not exacly appropriate, though). (You can close the commercial when it pops up in front of the poem.)