by Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888)

The sea is calm to‑night
Language: English 
Available translation(s): GER
The sea is calm to-night, 
The tide is full, the moon lies fair 
Upon the straights; -- 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 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 Ægean, 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 furl'd.
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.

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • GER German (Deutsch) (Walter A. Aue) , "Der Strand von Dover", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Researcher for this text: Peter Duyster

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 37
Word count: 258