Monday, February 27, 2012

Beyond Parody

The stupid was so thick today, a parody of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" started forming itself in my head. But when I went to find the poem, I saw that it was far more expressive of what I was feeling than any parody I could invent.

The sea is calm to-night.
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-blanched land,
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 on the A gaean, 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 earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, 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, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

The Sea of Faith...well, we know what Rick Santorum and his Catholic bishop friends would think that signified. And perhaps that was what Arnold meant, although if he meant religion, it probably encompassed a great deal more than control of women's reproductive organs.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another!

I'm lucky to be immersed in a Sea of Faith of friends; just got a phonecall from one I hadn't heard from in a decade. But worlds change, and Arnold's was changing, as ours is. Sara Robinson points out, back to Santorum and friends, that these changes can take a long time indeed.

Arnold leaves us on that darkling plain. But it seems to me that if hang with those friends, it might just turn out to be a little more various, beautiful, and new.

1 comment:

troutsky said...

If you see the sexual revolution as a branch of political revolution it can seem that "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

Even those who think the current order sucks can think 'yes, but what might come could be so much worse'.

What these pessimists can't see is the "blood dimmed tide" they have "loosed everywhere" themselves.