Thomas Hardy for CAPE Literatures in English version 3
CAPE Literatures in English Unit 2
By Lyniss Pitt
San Fernando East Secondary School
The Wessex Poems
Hardy’s verse is spare, unadorned, and unromantic,
and its pervasive theme is man’s futile struggle
against cosmic forces. Like many of his novels, the 51
poems that form this anthology are set against the
bleak and forbidding Dorset landscape, whose
physical harshness echoes that of an indifferent, if not
Wessex was the "partly-real, partly-dream" county that
formed the backdrop for most of Hardy's writings—
named after an Anglo-Saxon kingdom and modeled
on the real counties of Berkshire, Devon, Dorset,
Hampshire, Somerset, and Wiltshire. The poems deal
with classic Hardy themes of disappointment in love
and life, and the struggle to live a meaningful life in
an indifferent world.
From Wessex Poems and Other Verses
• Neutral Tones
If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: "Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!‚
Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.
But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
--Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain. 1866
Hap- Fortune or chance
Ecstasy- Intense joy or delight
Steeled- To cover, plate, edge, or point with steel
Ire- Anger or wrath
Unmerited- Not deserved
Meted- Distributed by or as if by measure
Crass- So crude and unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility
Purblind- Having poor vision, nearly or partly blind
Doomster- Someone in charge of declaring a sentence or charge
Strown- Scattered or spread here and there
Pilgrimage- A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral
(definitions from dictionary.com)
‚Hap‛ is a poem by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) that he wrote in 1866, while working as a trainee architect,
and for which he could not find a publisher. It did not reach the general public until 1898 when Hardy
included it in his first collection, which was entitled ‚Wessex Poems‛, which only appeared after he had
concluded his career as a highly successful novelist.
The poem is a sonnet, although it is presented as three stanzas in that the traditional octave is split into
two stanzas each of four lines and the sestet is a stanza on its own. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD
EFEFFE, which is a variant on the Shakespearean form, although the clean break between octave and
sestet is more associated with the Petrarchan sonnet form.
Hap is Hardy’s attempt to grapple with the philosophical question of the existence of god and the purpose
of that existence. Is there a god and if so is that god delighted by the suffering of man? In stanza 1 Hardy
poses that question and in stanza 2 he states that if such a god existed then he would be prepared to
simply curl up and die, resigned to his fate which is the hands of one that is ‚Powerfuller‛ than himself.
In stanza 3 however, he turns this theory on its head and concludes that the random highs (joys) and lows
(sorrows) in life are all the result of happenstance or chance. It is simply ‚Crass Casualty/dicing Time or the
purblind Doomsters‛ that decide whether to throw blessings or pain into our path as we journey through life.
Ultimately, for Hardy it is apparent that despite whether he believes there is a God or not, that that God
does nothing but watch the world’s happenings. Thus, for the poet there is no God in charge, no fate, just
coincidence and chance.
• Irony-Line 4
• Hyperbole-Line 5
• Metaphor-hope unblooms
• Personification-joy lies slain, Casualty/Time/Doomsters
• Rhetorical question-lines 9 & 10
• Caesura-a complete pause in a line of poetry
• Ellipses-casts a moan…
-god prepares for --sorrow , lost , profit
-steeled , eased , meted
-so , hope , sown ; stresses
-dicing , Time , -blind
• Stanza 1-strong negative
• Stanza 2-passive and filled
with reluctant sorrow
• Stanza 3-doomed
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
--They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing. . . .
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.
chidden of - rebuked, censured severely by
starving – freezing, dying
sod – earth
ash – ash tree
rove – move as if considering, judging, appraising
tedious – wearisome, annoying
thereby – by that, a grin passed over your mouth
ominous – bringing misfortune; a-wing – flying past
keen – painful
wrings – causes intense distress, pain
Summary of ‚Neutral Tones‛
‚Neutral Tones‛ consists of four quatrains, each with three tetrameter lines and a final trimeter line that rhyme abba, cddc,
effe, ghhg. The emphasis throughout is on coldness and lack of colour, with the scene matching the emotions of the two
people involved. The landscape is composed of neutral tones (‚white,‛ ‚grey‛ and ‚greyish‛), all is chastened, even the sod is
The first stanza sets the scene of the pond on a winter day. The sun has no colour, ‚as though chidden of God‛. The grey
leaves that have fallen on ‚the starving sod‛ are, appropriately enough, ‚from an ash‛, which is an excusable pun.
The second stanza describes the meeting of the two in ways that emphasize how their love has died. Whereas formerly they
would have gazed into each other’s eyes and given each other emotional warmth, her eyes are now ‚as eyes that rove / Over
tedious riddles of years ago‛. There is conversation between them, but, in place of the ‚sweet nothings‛ that lovers would
exchange it is now nothing more than ‚some words played between us‛ which only serve for their love to be ‚lost the more‛.
The theme continues in the third stanza, with the woman’s smile described in the starkest terms as: ‚the deadest thing / Alive
enough to have strength to die‛ and as a bitter grin that is likened to ‚an ominous bird a-wing‛.
The final stanza brings together the scene and the emotions in a remarkable way. What has happened is that the images
described in the poem have become so closely associated with the memory of the event that they cannot be separated. It is
not just that a sight of ‚the God-curst sun‛, for example, will now remind him for ever of that time of parting, but that these
images will come into his mind whenever he thinks of that event. Hence the ‚keen lessons that loves deceives / … have
shaped to me / Your face‛ (and the other images).
Thomas Hardy's "Neutral Tones" examines a relationship that has lost its passion and fallen into a state of near-death. In the
poem, Hardy uses the environment as an objective correlative to invoke a state of melancholia in the reader, which is the
same feeling the speaker had about the relationship in the poem. Essentially, Hardy creates a dying environment to symbolize
a perishing relationship. In addition to serving as an objective correlative, the bleak world Hardy describes in "Neutral Tones"
also symbolizes the speaker's dead relationship. Through his use of imagery, construction of the poem, and paradoxes, Hardy
creates a bleak world of once-beautiful things lying in despair which invokes a sense of hopelessness and melancholia in the
• Paradox-St. 3 "the deadest thing alive enough
to have strength to die"
• Alliteration-"starving sod‚ (dying relationship),
‚wrings with wrong‛
• Oxymoron-‛The smile on your mouth was the
deadest thing‛, ‚grin of bitterness‛
• Metaphor-‛starving sod‛ describing the
relationship that was starved for love and
affection and so was dying
• Assonance-keen, deceives, me, tree, leaves
• Symbolism-the grey pond symbolic of the
couples’ faded/dying romance
• Imagery-description of the pond, the smile of
the woman, the landscape
• Anger and bitterness for love lost
Poems of the Past and the Present
Thomas Hardy, in the preface to his 'Poems
of the past and the present' said "the road to
a true philosophy of life seems to lie in
humbly recording diverse readings of its
phenomenon as they are forced upon us by
chance and change.‛ Hardy considered
poetry to be ‚the heart of literature" . For
him, poetry was "emotion put into measure"
where "the emotion must come by nature",
but measure must be "acquired by art."
From Poems of the Past and the Present
Poems of Pilgrimage
• Shelley’s Skylark
• To an Unborn Pauper Child
• A Broken Appointment
• ‚The Darkling Thrush
Shelley's Skylark (the neighbourhood of Leghorn,
Somewhere afield here something lies
In Earth's oblivious eyeless trust
That moved a poet to prophecies A pinch of unseen, unguarded dust
The dust of the lark that Shelley heard,
And made immortal through times to be; Though it only lived like another bird,
And knew not its immortality.
Lived its meek life; then, one day, fell A little ball of feather and bone;
And how it perished, when piped farewell,
And where it wastes, are alike unknown.
Maybe it rests in the loam I view,
Maybe it throbs in a myrtle's green,
Maybe it sleeps in the coming hue
Of a grape on the slopes of yon inland scene.
Go find it, faeries, go and find
That tiny pinch of priceless dust,
And bring a casket silver-lined,
And framed of gold that gems encrust;
And we will lay it safe therein,
And consecrate it to endless time;
For it inspired a bard to win
Ecstatic heights in thought and rhyme.
Summary of ‚Shelley’s Skylark‛
‚Shelley’s Skylark‛ was written by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) during a trip to Italy that he and his wife Emma took in March and April 1887. He
wrote several poems during the visit and others on their return, and these were later published in the ‚Poems of Pilgrimage‛ section of his 1901
collection ‚Poems of the Past and the Present‛. The description of the Italian visit as a pilgrimage is misleading if one confines use of the word to
religious journeys, but Hardy’s pilgrimage was largely a literary one to the land that had inspired the Romantic poets and where both Keats and
Shelley had died. Hardy visited the graves of Keats and Shelley in Rome and also made a detour from Pisa to Livorno (Leghorn) where Shelley
had lived for a short time in 1820 and where he wrote his ‚To a Skylark‛.
Hardy was struck by thought that, if the lark in question had lived and died ‚Somewhere afield here‛, then also ‚here‛ must be ‚The dust of the
lark that Shelley heard‛. This was therefore the inspiration for ‚Shelley’s Skylark‛, which comprises six four-line stanzas with an ABAB rhyme
‚Dust‛ is mentioned in both the last line of the first stanza and the first line of the second (and again in the fifth stanza). The focus of the poem is
therefore on what might remain of a bird that once had life but has now been dead for a very long time. Its present existence is to be sought in
the earth, and the reader is invited (figuratively) to look down on the ground. The emphasis is therefore on the poet rather than the bird, and this
is a poem that has more to do with hero-worship of Shelley than appreciation of the messages that Shelley conveyed in ‚To a Skylark‛.
In the third and fourth stanzas Hardy lays emphasis on the fact that the skylark, when it died, did so without being noticed by Shelley or anyone
else, and so its body could have fallen anywhere in the district where Hardy now stands (in ‚The neighbourhood of Leghorn‛ as given in the
In the fourth stanza there is a hint that the skylark may still live, in the sense that its life has been passed on to some other living thing. There
are three lines that begin ‚Maybe‛, the second two being: ‚Maybe it throbs in a myrtle’s green, / Maybe it sleeps in the coming hue / Of a grape
…‛. The fourth stanza therefore starts to take the poem away from the natural concept of a dead bird having decomposed in the soil to the idea
that it might be immortal in more than just a poetic sense. Hardy’s skylark take his thoughts up from the dusty ground to the heights of wonder
and hero-worship. In the fifth stanza this movement goes a stage further as a supernatural element is introduced.
To an Unborn Pauper Child
Breathe not, hid Heart: cease silently,
And though thy birth-hour beckons thee,
Sleep the long sleep:
The Doomsters heap
Travails and teens around us here,
And Time-Wraiths turn our songsingings to fear.
Hark, how the peoples surge and sigh,
And laughters fail, and greetings die;
Hopes dwindle; yea,
Faiths waste away,
Affections and enthusiasms numb:
Thou canst not mend these things if thou dost come.
Had I the ear of wombed souls
Ere their terrestrial chart unrolls,
And thou wert free
To cease, or be,
Then would I tell thee all I know,
And put it to thee: Wilt thou take Life so?
Vain vow! No hint of mine may hence
To theeward fly: to thy locked sense
Explain none can
Life's pending plan:
Thou wilt thy ignorant entry make
Though skies spout fire and blood and nations quake.
Fain would I, dear, find some shut plot
Of earth's wide wold for thee, where not
One tear, one qualm,
Should break the calm.
But I am weak as thou and bare;
No man can change the common lot to rare.
Must come and bide. And such are we -Unreasoning, sanguine, visionary -That I can hope
Health, love, friends, scope
In full for thee; can dream thou'lt find
Joys seldom yet attained by humankind!
Teens-woes, pains, inflicted harms
Wraith-spectre of the dead
Terrestrial-relating to the earth and/its inhabitants
Pending-not yet settled or decided
Qualm-an uneasy feeling about the rightness of a chosen course of action
Sanguine-cheerfully confident, optimistic
Visionary-characterized by foresight
Summary of ‚To an Unborn Pauper Child‛
In this poem Hardy considers the probable fate of a child soon to be born into poverty. This is a poem which grew from an incident
that he probably witnessed in the Dorchester Magistrate's Court but Hardy's sincerity and compassion for the plight of human beings makes the
incident of concern to us all.
The poem begins startlingly with an opening line in which Hardy addresses the child as ‚hid heart‛ because it is as yet unborn in its
mother's womb, and advises it not to be born - to ‚Breathe not‛ and to ‚cease silently‛. The rest of the stanza gives Hardy's reason for this advice. It is
better to ‚Sleep the long sleep‛ because fate (‚The Doomsters‛) will bring the child troubles and difficulties (‚Travails and teens‛) in its life, and ‚Timewraiths turn our songsingings to fear‛, that is our spontaneous feelings of joy and happiness in life are turned to fear by time. Time as usual in Hardy's
writings is seen as the enemy of man and the unusual conceptions of Fate as ‚Doomsters‛ and Time as ‚Time-wraiths‛ (Spirits) suggests a conscious
and deliberate process at work.
In the second stanza, Hardy develops the idea of the destructiveness of time urging the child to listen to how people sigh, and to note
how time destroys all such natural positive values as ‚laughter‛, ‚hopes‛, ‚faiths‛, ‚affections‛ and ‚enthusiasms‛. Set against these positive nouns are
negative verbs suggesting this withering process:‚sigh‛, ‚fail‛, ‚die‛, ‚dwindle‛, ‚waste‛ and ‚numb‛. The verse concludes by stressing that the child
cannot alter this process if it is born.
In the third stanza, Hardy vows that if he were able to communicate with the unborn before their life on earth began, and if the child
were able to choose whether to live or die, he would impart all his knowledge to the child and ask it if it would take life as it is.
Hardy immediately, and forcefully, rejects this as a futile vow, for neither he nor anyone can explain to the child what will happen to it when it is born (
‚Life's pending plan‛ ). The stanza contains weaknesses of style: the oddity of ‚theeward‛ and the clumsy inversion ‚Explain none can‛. But the last
two lines present starkly the inevitability of birth in spite of the most dreadful events Life can bring.
In contrast to the ending of the fourth stanza, the fifth one opens very gently. Hardy speaks directly and tenderly to the child, in simple
monosyllables, wishing that he could find some secluded place ( ‚shut plot‛ ) in the world for it, where its life would be calm, unbroken by tear or
qualm. But with tender simplicity, and the absence of any bitterness, Hardy recognises that ‚I am weak as thou and bare‛ - he is as unable as the
child is to influence fate.
The poem ends with the recognition that the child must come and live ( ‚bide‛ ) on earth, and the hope that - in spite of the evidence it will find health, love and friends and ‚joys seldom yet attained‛ by people.
peoples surge and sigh
A Broken Appointment
You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me.
Summary of ‚A Broken Appointment‛
This is lyric poem in which the persona recounts an occasion, which may actually be symbolic of the
entire relationship, when the object of his romantic interest failed to keep a date. The speaker addresses a woman who
has left him waiting for her. He is upset that she could not bring herself even to go for pity, if not for love. The speaker,
it seems, is in love with the woman who has left him waiting; she does not love him back – a fact which the speaker
This poem is about the realities and ideals which can surround romantic love and rejection.
The poem is divided into two stanzas of eight lines. The first and last lines of each stanza are identical
short four syllable phrases, while the rest of the lines are ten syllables long. In the first stanza the speaker announces
‚You did not come‛ and finishes again with ‚You did not come‛ and in the second stanza the phrase changes to ‚You
love not me.‛ Hardy very obviously highlights these lines, allowing the reader to feel just how rejected and abandoned
the speaker feels.
Hardy emphasizes by his use of repetition and also by distinguishing these lines from the rest of the lines
in the stanza by changing the meter and cadence. ‚You did not come‛ and ‚You love not me‛ are two trochaic feet,
which enhances the feelings of resent and accusation that the speaker clearly feels towards the woman. The rest of the
lines are written in iambic pentameter. Although he sets these lines apart, the rhyme scheme of the poem (aabcbcaa
eedfdfee) still manages to make it flow as a whole. There are also ideas within the poem which Hardy gives emphasis
to by using consonance and alliteration.
The poem is the speaker’s lament about the selfish and fickle nature of love and trust, themes around
which the poem is centered.
Repetition-You did not
come, You love me not
Alliteration-less for loss,
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Darkling-a creature of darkness, dark, dim
Coppice-a thicket of small trees or shrubs
Lyre-classical harp-like instrument
Bine-stems-the flexible twining or climbing stem of certain plants, such as the hop,
woodbine, or bindweed, creepers
Bleak-gloomy, somber, depressing
Gaunt-thin, bony, haggard
Summary of ‚The Darkling Thrush‛
‘The Darkling Thrush’ opens with a picture of the poet looking at sunset as night falls. It is dusk on the last day of the nineteenth century.
When Hardy speaks the poem he is leaning on a wooden gate looking at the darkening countryside.
At the same time, frost takes over the land like a grey ghost.
Hardy compares the shadows of sunset to the last drops or ‘dregs’ of a drink.
He describes a desolate scene. Though it is sad, he is attracted to the sorrowful mood of the place.
Hardy compares the sun to an eye that is losing power at sunset. This image suggests that sunlight is like a god.
As Hardy looks across the countryside, the dark outlines of trees and sticks seem to stand out. They contrast to the brighter sky in the west.
These upstanding stems of trees remind him of the strings of broken harps.
At the end of the first stanza it is clear Hardy is alone. Hardy shows he is alone by claiming that the people who had been out and about before sunset have all gone home
to the comfort of their open house fires. The poet therefore feels alone. He likes this.
In the second stanza, Hardy imagines that the dark outline of hills and rocks form the shape of a giant corpse laid out for burial. The cloudy sky forms the roof or canopy of
the tomb or crypt. He enjoys feeling this spooky atmosphere.
Because it is the last day of the year and century, Hardy makes a connection between the shape of the landscape and a corpse at a wake. He has a vivid mind.
The wind blowing through the harp-like stems and trees makes funeral music, a bit like a creepy harp at a funeral service.
The fact that nothing is growing in the earth due to winter makes the land seem dead.
All creatures on the earth seem to be lifeless or ‘fervourless’. The spirit of life seems to have died.
Suddenly, in the third stanza, at this gloomy moment a frail old thrush begins to sing its sweet song.
The song of the bird, perched in the twigs, seems infinitely joyful or ecstatic.
Hardy is struck that the nearby thrush looks old and frail. Its feathers are ruffled by the strengthening evening wind. Yet it has joy in its heart.
The poet imagines that the bird through its song is throwing its soul out to the spreading darkness.
In the last stanza, Hardy claims the surrounding dark land provides little reason for this outburst of joyful singing.
It reminds him of a carol. The song begins to sweeten his gloomy mood.
Hardy suddenly realizes the song of the thrush in the falling darkness represents hope.
The poet is in a pleasantly sad mood as he leans alone on the gate watching the century fade into darkness. But he clings on to the sad mood. He is addicted to it. The
hopeful song of the bird adds a new mood. Hardy becomes aware for the first time that evening of a new hope of things to come.
He realizes that there is a reason to hope, without knowing what that reason is. It is clear that the thrush alone senses this hope and expresses it.
This is probably nature’s way of reminding him that spring always follows winter. Or it may be a spiritual message from nature. It is certainly uplifting.
Personification-Frost, Winter, Century,
Alliteration-dregs made desolate
Metaphor-weakening eye of the day
SymbolismSynecdoche-a figure of speech in which a
part is used to represent the whole e.g.
spirits to represent people
Hyperbole-the bird’s joy is illimited
Repetition-regular pattern of rhymes
Assonance-repetition of similar vowel
Sibilance-repetition of repeated ‚s‛ sounds
From Time’s Laughingstocks and Other Verses
• God’s Education
• The Man He Killed
Time's Laughingstocks and Other
Verses is a collection of some
best-loved poems by Hardy. "They
are to be regarded," Hardy wrote,
"in the main, as dramatic
characters." Hardy assembled the
collection himself and published it
I saw him steal the light away
That haunted in her eye:
It went so gently none could say
More than that it was there one day
And missing by-and-by.
I watched her longer, and he stole
Her lily tincts and rose;
All her young sprightliness of soul
Next fell beneath his cold control,
And disappeared like those.
I asked: "Why do you serve her so?
Do you, for some glad day,
Hoard these her sweets -- ?" He said, "O no,
They charm not me; I bid Time throw
Them carelessly away."
Said I: "We call that cruelty We, your poor mortal kind."
He mused. "The thought is new to me.
Forsooth, though I men's master be,
Theirs is the teaching mind!"
Tincts- colours, tints
Sprightliness-full of spirit and vitality
Hoard-a hidden supply stored for future use
Charm-attract or greatly delight/please
Mortal-human, liable or subject to death
Muse-consider or say thoughtfully
Forsooth-in truth, indeed
Summary of ‚God’s Education‛
Hardy recounts the death of a loved one, and his subsequent argument with God over
her death. In content and world-weary tone, Hardy’s poem recalls Shakespeare’s, ‚As
flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.‛ (King Lear Act 4
At the end of the conversation Hardy expresses the view that mankind is ‚the teaching
mind‛ of its Creator. The lesson that he has learnt at the end of the experience is that
God is essentially indifferent to man’s suffering and even man’s ultimate death does not
impact on God in any significant way.
Alliteration-sprightliness of soul, cold control
Personification-Time throw(s) them carelessly
Rhythm/Rhyme-Rhyme scheme abaab,
cdccd, efeef, ghggh
Tired and world weary
The Man He Killed
"Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
"But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
"I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although
"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.
"Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown."
Nipperkin-a small cup
Infantry-soldiers armed and trained to fight on foot
Traps-things, stuff short for trappings
Enlist-to enter to serve in the armed forces
Summary of ‚The Man He Killed‛
"The Man He Killed" is a poem written in 1902 by Thomas Hardy which focuses on the
senselessness and futility of war. The poem is written in the first person from the viewpoint of a
soldier that killed a man in battle. The poem, in the form of a dramatic monologue, is a wonderful
example of Hardy’s belief in meliorism (the belief that improvement of society depends on human
effort) and his anti-war sentiments.
The poem specifically addresses the Boer War, which Hardy was vehemently against. The
Boer War took place in South Africa, which was largely populated by Dutch farmers. Great Britain
was in possession of lands surrounding the Boers. When gold and diamonds were discovered in the
Boers’ land, however, Britain desired the area, and the Boer War ensued.
The narrator expresses the view that if they had only met in different circumstances, an
inn for instance, the outcome may have been different. The narrator falters to explain why he shot at
him and attempts to reassure himself as to why he did it. The ending stresses how "quaint and
curious war is". The poem forces the reader to examine the brutality and inhumanity of war,
and to ponder how humans are often victims of sheer circumstance and fate.
Contrast-between how the
man may have been treated
and how he actually was.
From Satires of Circumstances, Lyrics and Reveries
• The Voice
• The Phantom Horseman
• The Moth-Signal
Satires of Circumstance is a collection
of poems by English poet Thomas
Hardy, and was published in 1914. It
includes the 18 poem sequence
'Poems of 1912-13', on the death of
Hardy's wife Emma, widely regarded to
comprise the best work of his poetic
The sequence was extended to the
now-classic 21 poems in Collected
Poems of 1919.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.
Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)
Listlessness-lacking in energy, lethargic
Dissolved-reduced, made to disappear
Wan-unnaturally pale due to illness or sadness
Wistlessness-without understanding, intelligence or resourcefulness
Falter-unsteady in purpose or action due to loss of confidence or courage
Ooze- to flow or leak slowly
Summary of ‚The Voice‛
Thomas Hardy wrote the poem ‚The Voice‛ to remember his departed wife,
Emma Gifford Hardy. The poem shows that he was full of remorse for the way that their
relationship had developed in the later years. He is also haunted by his guilt in the way
he treated her. He feels that she is continually calling to him and he is not sure whether
he is imagining her voice or not.
The poem is a carefully constructed piece of art that bears timeless testimony
to the plight of many people who grapple with the mystery of death and have to live with
the consequences of personal mistakes that can never be rectified. Hardy has
composed a poem that has memorably captured this experience of the human condition.
Alliteration-faltering forward, wan wistlessness
Repetition-you call to me
Imagery-visual and auditory (falling leaves, oozing wind)
Assonance-much missed, would wait…
Metaphor-wind oozing thin
The Phantom Horsewoman
Queer are the ways of a man I know:
He comes and stands
In a careworn craze,
And looks at the sands
And in the seaward haze
With moveless hands
And face and gaze,
Then turns to go...
And what does he see when he gazes so?
They say he sees as an instant thing
More clear than today,
A sweet soft scene
That once was in play
By that briny green;
Yes, notes alway
Warm, real, and keen,
What his back years bringA phantom of his own figuring.
Of this vision of his they might say more:
Not only there
Does he see this sight,
In his brain-day, night,
As if on the air
It were drawn rose brightYea, far from that shore
Does he carry this vision of heretofore:
A ghost-girl-rider. And though, toil-tried,
He withers daily,
Time touches her not,
But she still rides gaily
In his rapt thought
On that shagged and shaly
And as when first eyed
Draws rein and sings to the swing of the tide.
Queer-odd, unconventional, eccentric behaviour
Careworn-showing the effects of worry or anxiety
Instant-at once, at present
Keen-sharp, vivid, piercing
Phantom-a ghost or apparition
Heretofore-before this, previously
Toil-labour, work strenuously
Withers-dries up, shrivels
Rapt-deeply absorbed, engrossed
Shaly-resembling shale (a rock made up of clay-like, fine-grained sediments)in structure
Rein-a long narrow leather strap attached to each end of the bit of a bridle and used by a rider or driver to
control a horse
Summary of ‚The Phantom Horsewoman‛
‚The Phantom Horsewoman‛ was the last
of 18 poems written by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) that
were published as ‚Poems of 1912-13‛, although three
more were later added when the collection became
part of the ‚Collected Poems‛ of 1919. The set of
poems was written following the death, on 27th
November 1912, of Emma Hardy (née Gifford). The
marriage had not been a happy one during the last
years of Emma’s life and Hardy had certainly not
treated her well, although he only came to appreciate
the extent of his neglect after her sudden death and his
discovery of her secret writings, including a document
entitled ‚What I Think Of My Husband‛, which pulled no
As an act of what Hardy called
‚expiation/atonement‛, he travelled back to Cornwall in
March 1913 to revisit the places where they had first
met and been happy, and ‚The Phantom Horsewoman‛
is one of the poems that resulted from that visit.
Alliteration-ghost-girl, toiltried, sweet soft scene…
The Moth-Signal (On Egdon Heath)
'What are you still, still thinking,
He asked in vague surmise,
'That you stare at the wick unblinking
With those great lost luminous eyes?'
'O, I see a poor moth burning
In the candle-flame,' said she,
'Its wings and legs are turning
To a cinder rapidly.'
'Moths fly in from the heather,'
He said, 'now the days decline.'
'I know,' said she. 'The weather,
I hope, will at last be fine.
'I think,' she added lightly,
'I'll look out at the door.
The ring the moon wears nightly,
May be visible now no more.
She rose, and, little heeding,
Her husband then went on
With his attentive reading
In the annals of ages gone.
Outside the house a figure
Came from the tumulus near,
And speedily waxed bigger,
And clasped and called her Dear.
'I saw the pale-winged token
You sent through the crack,' sighed she.
'That moth is burnt and broken
With which you lured out me.
'And were I as the moth is
It might be better far
For one whose marriage troth is
Shattered as potsherds are!'
Then grinned the Ancient Briton
From the tumulus treed with pine:
'So, hearts are thwartly smitten
In these days as in mine!'
Vague-indistinct, not clearly expressed
Surmise-to make a guess
Luminous-bright, full of light
Cinder-partly burnt substance
Heather-low-growing shrub with evergreen leaves and small bell shaped pinkish-purplish flowers
Decline-gradually grow shorter
Heeding-paying attention, listening
Museful-meditative, thoughtfully silent
Tumulus-the mound of earth placed over a tomb
Lure-bait used to attract attention
Troth-pledge of fidelity
Potsherds-fragments of broken pottery
Summary of ‚The Moth-Signal‛
Egdon Heath is a fictitious area of Thomas Hardy's Wessex inhabited sparsely by the people
who cut the furze (gorse) that grows there. The entire action of Hardy's novel The Return of the Native
takes place on Egdon Heath, and it also features in The Mayor of Casterbridge and the short story The
Withered Arm (1888). The area is rife with witchcraft and superstition.
"The Moth-Signal" is a variation on the scene in Book IV, Chapter 4, of Hardy’s The Return of
the Native in which Wildeve uses a moth to signal Eustacia to a rendezvous on the heath. The scene from
the novel, then, is an obvious analogue (and very likely the source) for stanzas 1-8 of the poem. However,
stanza 9, the last stanza of the poem, has no counterpart in the novel. Here Hardy has conjured up a ghost
from antiquity who eaves- drops on the illicit rendezvous and utters to himself an exclamation that removes
the poem from its immediate and localized setting and places it in the realm of the immemorial and
In Hardy’s view, misery is the inevitable lot of humankind. But more significantly, the poem
conveys this idea by calling forth a representative of the past (the Ancient Briton who rises from his grave)
to emphasize the universality of the situation.
The moth is an ancient symbol of change or new directions.
Alliteration-tumulus treed, lost luminous,
mute and museful, annals of ages
From Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses
• During Wind and Rain
• A Backward Spring
Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous
Verses includes some of Hardy's most
beautiful poems on war and
patriotism. Hardy's poems exemplify
his mastery of lyrical language and
During Wind and Rain
They sing their dearest songs—
He, she, all of them—yea,
Treble and tenor and bass,
And one to play;
With the candles mooning each face. . . .
Ah, no; the years O!
How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!
They clear the creeping moss—
Elders and juniors—aye,
Making the pathways neat
And the garden gay;
And they build a shady seat. . . .
Ah, no; the years, the years,
See, the white storm-birds wing across.
They are blithely breakfasting all—
Men and maidens—yea,
Under the summer tree,
With a glimpse of the bay,
While pet fowl come to the knee. . . .
Ah, no; the years O!
And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.
They change to a high new house,
He, she, all of them—aye,
Clocks and carpets and chairs
On the lawn all day,
And brightest things that are theirs. . . .
Ah, no; the years, the years
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs.
Treble-the highest voice or range
Tenor-the highest natural adult male voice
Bass-male singing voice of the lowest range
Throngs-crowds, multitudes gathered close together
Blithely-carefree, happy, unconcerned
Bay-a body of water that provides access to the sea
Ript/ripped-torn or split
Summary of ‚During the Wind and the Rain‛
In Stanza 1 there is a domestic feeling of a family singing; there is one person who is playing a musical accompaniment.
The warmth of feeling is captured by the words 'their dearest songs' since they carry the implication that this is an activity which is
regularly enjoyed. The time is possibly Winter with the dark interior of the house lit up by candles which light up different parts of the
family faces in the way the moon appears to be either full or shaded. The sixth line seems to convey a break in the picture caused by
time and the last line has a chill sense of Autumn-Winter with the leaves falling.
In Stanza 2 the family is clearing the garden in the Spring: they are tidying up after Winter and preparing for the coming
Summer by building 'a shady seat'. The sixth line has a musical refrain with the repetition of 'the years, the years' which carries with it a
note of sadness and the last line may refer to seagulls flying inland to avoid wintry weather.
In Stanza 3 the family is having breakfast outside in the Summer, overlooking the sea; there is a domestic harmony with
the chickens (pets) collecting around the table for crumbs. The sixth line repeats the break in the picture as in stanza one and the last
line suggests flowers being cut back after they have finished flowering at Summer's end.
In Stanza 4 the family members are moving house and we still seem to be in the Summer with the long days being used
to collect their personal belongings on the lawn before being moved inside. The glow of 'brightest things' has a sense of value as well
as some memory shining in the mind. The last line places the poet in a graveyard watching the rain drops move down the carved
names on the gravestones.
This last stanza brings us to the position of the poet standing 'during wind and rain' in the graveyard where he can see
the names of family/friends. The gravestones act as catalysts for thought taking him back to a former time (a little like old photographs
remind one of moments now gone). The importance of the word 'ploughs' cannot be overemphasized since the poem surely ends on a
more positive note than simply one of regret. Ploughing is the agricultural activity of preparing land for new life and the act of memory
brings those long-gone moments back again, albeit briefly.
Alliteration-rotten rose is ript…
Personification-throngs and sick to describe
Assonance-repeated ‚o‛ of sorrow
Hyperbole-ript, ploughs, throngs
Symbol-family at the stages of life, death images
(‘sick leaves’, ‘white storm birds’, ‘the rotten rose’
and ‘carved names’)
Metaphor-the candles mooning each face, the
rain-drops plough down the carved names
Repetition-creates music reflective of the joy of
family and sorrow of poet
A Backward Spring
The trees are afraid to put forth buds,
And there is timidity in the grass;
The plots lie gray where gouged by spuds,
And whether next week will pass
Free of sly sour winds is the fret of each bush
Of barberry waiting to bloom.
Yet the snowdrop's face betrays no gloom,
And the primrose pants in its heedless push,
Though the myrtle asks if it's worth the fight
This year with frost and rime
To venture one more time
On delicate leaves and buttons of white
From the selfsame bough as at last year's prime,
And never to ruminate on or remember
What happened to it in mid-December.
Backward-done or arranged in a manner or order that is opposite to previous occurrence or normal use
Spring-the season of the year, occurring between winter and summer, during which the weather becomes
warmer and plants revive
Gouged-dug into, scooped out
Spuds-sharp spade-like tools used for digging or weeding, potatoes
Barberry-hedge plant with small yellow flowers, and red, orange, or blackish berries
Snowdrop-nodding white flowers that bloom in early spring
Primrose-a type of plant
Heedless-unmindful or thoughtless
Rime-a coating of ice on grass and trees
Ruminate-to reflect on over and over again
Summary of ‚A Backward Spring‛
In the poem, the season of Spring is described as being ‚backward‛ because it
is taking longer than usual for the natural changes that occur during that time to happen.
The Winter is lingering on and causing the tress to be afraid to ‚put forth buds‛, the
grass is timid and the even the winds are ‚sour.‛
In spite of the slow pace at which the season’s change is occurring, Nature
(the snowdrops and primrose) does not complain and even chooses to continue pushing
upward and to grow. The exception to this rule is the myrtle which ‚asks if it’s worth the
fight‛ to make the same effort to grow ‚from the selfsame bough as at last year’s prime‛
and to never take the time to even think about how much the plant would have had to
struggle and suffer for survival during the long Winter months.
Personification-lines 1 &2
When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
'He was a man who used to notice such things'?
If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
'To him this must have been a familiar sight.'
If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, 'He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone.'
If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
'He was one who had an eye for such mysteries'?
And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
'He hears it not now, but used to notice such things'?
Afterwards-at a later time, subsequently
Latch-to shut/close tightly
Postern-a small rear gate for a fort or castle
Nocturnal-occurring in the night
Furtively-stealthily, acting with quiet caution
Mysteries-things that are not fully understood and which arouse curiousity
Summary of ‚Afterwards‛
In this economic poem of reflection, Hardy muses upon the transience of life, writing movingly on his own mortality. The very title alludes to his demise, although Hardy chooses never
to use the word ‘Death’, instead replacing it with euphemisms such as ‘stilled at last’. Humbled by his impending death, Hardy fills the poem with melancholy and bittersweet imagery.
In each of his five four-line stanzas, characterized by his flowing lyricism, Hardy considers his death at different times of the year, and imagines how he would wish to be
remembered by his contemporaries. The poem opens with the personification of the Present closing its back gate (‘postern’) on his ‘tremulous stay’: his own death, and the use of the
adjective ‘tremulous’ suggests the fleeting frailty of life. However, he imagines it as a gentle passing, and never mentions any notion of a violent death throughout the poem. He then
proceeds to consider what his neighbours would think if he died in May. He represents May as butterfly, flapping its ‘glad green leaves like wings’, which are ‘delicate-filmed as newspun silk’. The rhythm of ‘new-spun silk’ and smooth flow of ‘delicate-filmed’ are redolent of the content that they describe. Furthermore, ‘glad, green leaves’ has connotations of a
verdant spring day, adding to the contrast between this fresh, new season, and Hardy’s death. Nature progresses without him, and he wonders whether his neighbours would comment
on his vivid appreciation of the world.
In the second verse, he imagines his death on a dusky autumnal evening. In an indication of his fondness for making up words, he uses the invented ‘dewfall-hawk’ as a bird
that flies through the twilight (Hardy’s ‘dewfall-hawk’ represents a nightjar). The phrase ‘an eyelid’s soundless blink’, describing the bird’s flight, conveys a sense of mystical stillness
and re-enforces the silence, as a blink makes no noise anyway, while the use of the metaphysical word ‘shades’ subtly expresses the different lights of the barren landscape. In the
alliterative phrase, ‘wind-warped upland thorn’, Hardy suggests that the wind there has bent the bushes, and again concludes by considering what might be said of him. In many ways,
this verse is reminiscent of another of Hardy’s poems, ‘A Darkling Thrush’. Both contain images of nature and bleak moors, refer to Hardy’s habit of walking along heathland, and ‘windwarped upland thorn’ echoes lines such as ‘tangled bine-stems scored the sky’.
In the third stanza, Hardy muses on the thoughts of his friends if he were to die at night. The evocative description ‘mothy and warm’ encapsulates a summer’s furry darkness
exactly, and his death is again contrasted against a backdrop of vitality and energy. This is heightened when he describes a hedgehog’s crossing of the lawn: the animal ‘travels
furtively’, the word ‘travels’ implying that it is a long journey, and ‘furtively’ indicating that it must be made under the cover of darkness, which hints at the hedgehog’s vulnerability.
While he lives, Hardy is determined to help these ‘innocent creatures’, but in a regretful last line, he wonders if his neighbours will remember his deeds.
In the penultimate verse, the reader is again introduced to the possibility of death at night, but Hardy is dealing with winter now. His friends are ‘watching the full-starred
heavens’, and winter is personified as seeing these stars as well. By choosing the verb ‘rise’, a subtle indication of a thought rising like the moon is created.
In the closing stanza of ‘Afterwards’, Hardy leaves the field of seasons and envisages his own funeral. The opening to the conclusion, ‘my bell of quittance is heard in the
gloom’ is an effective auditory–image, and resonates strongly with the beginning of Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard’: ‘the curfew tolls the knell of parting day’.
Once a breeze has briefly interrupted the ‘outrollings’ of his funeral bell, it continues, heard more loudly than before like a ‘new bell’s boom’. This alliterative phrase clearly conveys the
sound of the ringing, and is again made to subtly juxtapose the death of Hardy with the rebirth and renewal of another thing.
Each quatrain in the poem follows a clear A B A B rhyme pattern, but due to the unpredictable amount of syllables in each line, there is no rigid rhythm. A lyrical ambience is
maintained throughout the poem, but Hardy, an unsurpassed master of rhythm, is not to be underestimated. The very absence of an obvious meter leads to the lines being stretched
out, infusing the poem with a solemn, funereal mood. He uses alliteration effectively, such as ‘comes crossing’ and ‘glad green’, and employs several hyphenated adjectives: ‘delicatefilmed’, ‘full-starred’ and ‘wind-warped’. By narrating the poem from the first-person, he achieves a close intimacy with the reader. We are left resigned to the fact that we are all born to
die, the consolation within the poem being that we may be remembered affectionately by the living. The poem, then, becomes Hardy's bell of quittance, a song celebrating not merely his life
but all life in the face of death.
Alliteration-glad green, spun-silk, wind-warped
Imagery-the furtive hedgehog, the full-starred heavens
Simile-May month flaps…like wings
Metaphor-‛I have been stilled at last‛
Repetition-He used to notice such things
From Human Shows, Far Phantasies, Songs and Trifles
• Life and Death at Sunrise
This collection of Hardy’s verses was his sixth and
last, containing such poems as ‚Last Love-Word‛
and ‚Vagrant’s Song,‛ dealing with themes of
disappointment in love and life, and mankind’s long
struggle against indifference to human suffering. A
vein of regret seems to tinge nearly every theme.
‚Hardy closed his Bible and saw a pagan world.
His vision of nature is terrible, though his artistry is
of great beauty‛ (Geoffrey Heptonstall).
Life and Death at Sunrise
(Near Dogbury Gate, 1867)
The hills uncap their tops
Of woodland, pasture, copse,
And look on the layers of mist
At their foot that still persist:
They are like awakened sleepers on one elbow lifted,
Who gaze around to learn if things during night have shifted.
A waggon creaks up from the fog
With a laboured leisurely jog;
Then a horseman from off the hill-tip
Comes clapping down into the dip;
While woodlarks, finches, sparrows, try to entune at one time,
And cocks and hens and cows and bulls take up the chime.
With a shouldered basket and flagon
A man meets the one with the waggon,
And both the men halt of long use.
‘Well,’ the waggoner says, ‘what’s the news?’
‘ – ’Tis a boy this time. You’ve just met the doctor trotting back.
She’s doing very well. And we think we shall call him ‚Jack‛.
‘And what have you got covered there?’
He nods to the waggon and mare.
‘Oh, a coffin for old John Thinn:
We are just going to put him in.’
‘ – So he’s gone at last. He always had a good constitution.’
‘ – He was ninety-odd. He could call up the French Revolution.’
Copse-a thicket of small tress or shrubs
Persist-continue to exist or last
Waggon-four wheeled vehicle designed to be pulled
Jog-a slow, steady trot
Entune-to tune, to intone
Flagon-a large vessel, usually of metal or pottery, with a handle and spout and often a lid, used for holding
wine or other liquors
Constitution-physical makeup of a person
French Revolution-the anticlerical and republican revolution in France from 1789 until 1799, when Napoleon
Summary of ‚Life and Death at Sunrise‛
Dogbury Gate is a miniature pass at the head of the Cerne Valley in Dorset, England.
In the poem, the sun rises over the Dogbury hills, revealing the landscape with the exception of the foothills which lie
covered in mist. The uncovered hills are personified and described as persons who have awakened from sleep and now rest on one
elbow gazing around to see whether any changes had occurred during the night.
Into that scene enters a worker on his wagon and then a lone horseman who enters the awakening environment in
which the wild birds are practicing their music/songs and the domesticated animals also add their own sounds.
Another man meets the waggoner and they stop as is their custom to converse. The wife of the man who is on the
wagon has just had a baby boy and he informs that man with the basket and flagon that he had just passed the doctor on his horse
and they had decided to call the newborn, Jack.
The man asked about the object that was covered in the man’s wagon and he is informed that it is a coffin for an old
man, John Thinn who had passed away. We learn that John had lived a full life and was old enough to remember an historical event,
the French Revolution. In this lyric poem, Hardy in a very simple yet profound manner celebrates life and acknowledges that it is a
cycle in which death is a natural outcome.
Simile-they lie like awakened sleepers on one
elbow lifted who gaze around…
Personification-the hills uncap their tops, waggon
Alliteration-laboured leisurely, comes clapping
Rhyme-each stanza is made up of three rhyming