by Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm tonight.
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.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd sand.
Listen! You hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it in the Agean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round the earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-winds, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light
Nor certitude, nor peace, not help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confus'd alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Contributed by John Delaney, who comments: A famous and deeply thought provoking poem that covers a substantial range of issues from the role and benefits of a world based on faith, to the delightful evocation of "pebbles" grating on a wave swept beach - "Begin, and cease, and then again begin". He concludes with the powerful three lines that stay with in the mind long after the poem is finished.... that could as well have been written yesterday.