Stumbling on Dover Beach
Keywords:landscapes, gardens, beaches, Arcadia, history, creative criticism, geometry of the imagination
This is the third in a series of essays, linked thoughts about change over time. In the space of very few years in world historical terms, English beaches and wave-like rolling hills were transformed. For centuries people turned cottages away from strong winds. Then came the impulse to face the sea, to breathe the air in and cast like anglers for awe, possibly to catch the sublime. This is an extraordinary change of mind. On Dover Beach Arnold escaped social constraints, but he feels unease about change. Ignorant armies had gathered themselves up, pulled themselves together, moved to the city, wanting to leave behind the dirt and cold and grind, the middens of peasant life. They found... new versions of the same. Some then lived to see life in the trenches of World War One. They had lawns and gardening and, eventually, all-conquering patio furniture.
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