Dover Beach Revisited

by Edward Compton, SoF UK

Arnold! The Sea of Faith
Is ebbing still. Now, as then,
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar
Bemoans, to disillusioned ears, the death
Of God: its waters brackish, muddied
By slow erosion of the trampled shore,
Its currents crossed, muddled
By moles and groynes misplaced by men.

Experience, not faith, reveals
That in its own good time
The tide will turn,
Facing about, as one reborn,
Flowing again from blessed isles
Which purge and purify: returning home
As pilgrims, shriven at some distant shrine,
Dance on their way, unburdened and serene.

Yes, Arnold, your night was drear.
You did not see—
Because backsliding pebbles sounded harsh
You could not hear—
The nascent counter-surge, which we
Detect when tempests hush
At dawn—when noise
Gives way to wavelets' still small voice.

The ebb tide was a scavenger
Washing away cast-iron certainties
Worn rusty, holed and cracked.
The coast grows clear. A whispering messenger,
The shoreward backwash, tells
Of distant mysteries
Won from forgotten Nerieds' cells
And salvaged from our long neglect.

Now we may understand
How little we can comprehend;
Loosening the threadbare blindfold called Belief,
May see with awe and reverence
The unaccountable advance
Of waves across the thirsty sand—find life
In salty pools bewildered bright,
Beneath the dazzling miracle of light.

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