Does ‘Musee De Beaux Arts’ Or ‘Dover Beach’ Express Universal Truths About Suffering, Art, And Life?

1227 words - 5 pages

Aesthetics is a part of philosophy that pertains to the nature of beauty, art, and taste with the creation and appreciation of beauty. When speaking casually, if we describe a piece of literature, or picture, or anything as ‘aesthetically pleasing’ we usually are referring to the feeling of pleasure we get once looking at it. In this respect the sense of ‘aesthetic’ is loosely synonymous with that of ‘artistic’. Aesthetics derives from a Greek word meaning ‘things perceptible to the sense’, or ‘sensory impressions’. At its broadest, anything could have an aesthetic effect simply by virtue of being sensed and perceived. However, since this definition, aesthetics became narrowed to mean not just sense perception in general but ‘perception of the beautiful’ in particular. The poem ‘Dover Beach’ written by Matthew Arnold is categorised as a classic for its understated, discreet style and gripping expression of spiritual despair. ‘Dover Beach’ is considered an accurate representation of the Victorian Era. It illustrates the mood and tone of society at that time and how they lived their everyday lives. The Victorian Period was also known as the ‘Time of Trouble’ which took a large toll on the happiness of the people. Many writers in this period started to take on a melancholic tone in their work, Arnold included. Broadly, the poem ‘Dover Beach’ is about human misery and loss of religious faith.

The beginning of the poem instills both the physical and mental awareness of the speaker, a person engrossed with the sensory imagery displaced before them. In the first few lines of the poem, the visual imagery suggests a feeling of calamity and serenity with phrases like “The sea is calm to-night.” “The tide is full, the moon lies fair” and “out in the tranquil bay”. Matthew Arnold uses a lot of pathetic fallacy here, allowing him to evoke the feeling of sadness onto inanimate objects, in this case, the sea. Following these lines, the poems states ‘the light/ gleams and is gone’. The initial phrases such as “The sea is calm tonight” and “tranquil bay” both represent what is visible. However, the last ‘is’ before the ‘gone’ emphasises that the light is no longer there - it is no longer conspicuous to the senses. It is gone, leaving nothing but darkness behind. When looking at the metaphorical aspect of the subsequent lines, the light represents infallibility, thus, not only is the light diminished, but so is the feeling of certainty. The darkness makes it hard to differentiate who is who, reiterating this sense of ambiguity. Additionally, the alliteration of ‘g’ and ‘m’ in the words ‘gleams’ and ‘glimmering’ create a stuttering tone which further adds to the sense of uncertainty. The auditory imagery of the following six lines, beckoned by the turn of the “Listen!,” introduces the “grating roar/Of pebbles”. The pebbles could be seen as another metaphor for humans to demonstrate how small and inferior we are in relation to nature. We are completely thrown...

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