Thursday, October 22, 2009

Six Years...the Eternal Note of Sadness

This was my brother. Six years ago today, while at work, I received the news my brother had passed away. He was 52. I used to have a brother - and now - I do not. How is that possible? How I could I possibly still be alive knowing this? How do I live each day?

Victorian author Matthew Arnold said it best. He spoke of the "turbid ebb and flow of human misery" and recognized the "eternal note of sadness." The poem Dover Beach says it all, and basically speaks to the very heart of my being each and every day. From the first day I read it for a university class, stunned that someone could so exquisitely and perfectly express "where I live", it never ceases to move me, though years may pass between readings.

Alex was big, and strong, seemingly indestructible. He chased and challenged death many times and escaped, but finally it all caught up with him. You are right, Knatolee, when you say, "in many ways, humans are very strong but in others, we break easily. Life can change so much at any given moment. It's important to enjoy today." But why can't I seem to get that last part?

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

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 Agaean, 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.


  1. I am so sorry ...
    I know that when my parents past, I was in a bit of shock.
    Reality sinks in though.
    When my only sister goes, if she does before me, I will be by myself and that will just be unreal.

  2. I often find it hard to enjoy the present, and be in the moment. I keep trying!

    I'm sorry you lost your brother. He was far too young! Thank you for sharing the poem.

  3. It is a beautiful poem and at times like anniversaries of dead loved ones, of course we take the time to remember and to immerse ourselves in our grief. It is only natural dear Anya.