Explain how Hardy shows loss and regret in his poems
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Explain how Hardy shows loss and regret in his poems
A writer by the name of Thomas Hardy, was born on the second of June
1940, Dorchester, in Higher Bockhampton, near the countryside, this
affected his writing, because his writing always made some sort of
reference to nature. Hardy wrote poems and novels. His novels are
largely known, his novels were influenced by society, and the main
factors within society were the class system for the rich and the poor
and inequality and discrimination for women.
Hardy got married to his first wife Emma in 1874, although the
beginning of their marriage got off to a brilliant start, it was not a
very happy marriage for the rest of their time together. Emma inspired
Hardy’s writing. During his marriage with Emma, he became unfaithful
to her and had an affair with a lady called Florence Emily Dougdale,
when they met, Florence was at the age of 28.
In 1912, Hardy lost his wife, Emma and his sister, two years after
Emma died, 1914. Hardy then married Florence and bought her back to
her his house, the house he had lived in with his first wife. All of
this affected Hardy’s poetry, which became more cathartic. We see how
the following events affect his poetry in the 3 poem: The Going, The
Voice and the poem At Castle Boterel.
The poem ‘The Going’ tells us about a woman who died, and Hardy had
many unresolved questions yet to ask her. The poem opens with the
introduction to the idea that woman in this poem gave Hardy no clue
that she was leaving:
“Why did you give no hint that night,
… You would close your term here, up and be gone” (Stanza 1, line 1 &
I can infer from my background knowledge, that the woman to whom this
poem and the other two poems I’ll be discussing, is aimed at his first
wife, who had passed away in the same year this poem was written,
“Where I could not follow
With wings of swallow” (Stanza 1, line 6 & 7)
When Hardy uses this type of imagery, it makes the audience think that
she, Emma, left in a dignified way, because swallows are graceful
birds, and that he cannot follow her because she has gone to a better
place, maybe heaven. But he cannot follow because of the sinful thing
he did on Earth (he had an affair). This shows his feelings of loss
and regret because it makes the reader think that that he is missing
her terribly, because she has flown off and left him, and he cannot
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follow her because he is just a mere insignificant man whereas she is
an elegant, serene bird of flight, a swallow.
Stanza 2 starts off describing a person, presumably his late wife,
“Or lip me the softest call” (Stanza 2, Line 9)
Gives the image that the woman used to whisper it also emphasises her
intangibility and delicacy. This stanza makes the reader feel the
emptiness and the feeling of loss and blankness Hardy feels without
“Saw morning harden upon the wall” (Stanza 2, Line 11)
This shows how Hardy uses nature to fit into the context. That line is
meant to add feeling that nature is hard and doesn’t care. It also
shows the coldness that ravaged his body, which marked the changing of
“altered all” (Stanza 2, Line 14)
“Unmoved, unknowing” (Stanza 2, Line 12) creates a contrast from the
stanza before. The mood from the stanza before is of confusion and
admiration. But in this stanza certain words and phrases create a
blunt, sharp and sorrowful mood of finality. The mood of finality also
creates a mood of loss and regret, because Hardy has to get used to
life without his late wife, Emma. And that there is no going back for
him to rectify his mistakes. Emma’s death has made things final, no
And the lines: “Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness” (Stanza 3, Lines 19 – 20)
Creates the feeling of loss and bereavement, because this type of
imagery gives the reader a picture in their mind that Hardy’s life is
a big empty space, after he realises she has gone. The word “dankness”
seems that Hardy feels his life is in a dark, wet and damp place. The
word “yawning” emphasises that his feelings of misery has no end.
Hardy makes the fourth full of passion, because Hardy talked about the
pleasant and positive times they had. This is illustrated to us, when
Hardy writes: “By those red veined rocks far West” (Stanza 4, line
23), because the colour red can be connoted with romance, in this
context. Maybe because was trying to imply that she bought life, love
and happiness where ever she went, because she was so special.
“When life unrolled us its very best” (Stanza 4, Line 28). This showed
that he had positive memories with him and his wife and the quote gave
an image that life is like a carpet, waiting to be trod on softly. We
find out later on from the poem that they did not stay on the path
that life had created for them.
Because in the fifth stanza we see that, they did not speak to each
other: “latterly did we not speak” (Stanza 5, Line 29). This shows
that they did not stay on the path that life had created for them,
because if they did, they still would have had good time, when Emma
was alive. Hardy shows feelings of loss and regret because he wanted
he wanted to turn back time: “And ere your vanishing strive to seek”
(Stanza 5, Line 31), because if Hardy felt there was nothing he had
lost or regretted with his late wife. Why would he want to turn back
“In this right spring weather
We’ll visit together” (Stanza 5, Line 33 – 4)
This shows the feelings of loss and regret, as this what Hardy wanted
if his wife was still alive, that is why he feels guilty because Emma
is dead, and it is not possible for them to visit the places they once
The tone of the last stanza varies from the rest of the stanza,
because in this stanza it seems as if he has moved on: “Well, well!
All’s past amend,
Unchangeable. It must
go.” (Stanza 6, Lines 36 – 7). But the tone then
changes, it turns on to resentment:
“I seem but a dead man held on end” (Stanza 6, Line 78).
This shows Hardy has no control over his life, as if his feet are not
on the ground, he is just a flimsy shadow of a man. And he resents the
fact that when his wife was with him, he did not make an effort to get
along with her. And now that she has gone he can’t move on because he
realises he misses her to much.
From the poem you can tell that the poem is very personal and very
cathartic. This poem does not have a general message. The poem is
directed at the woman who is the subject of the poem.
The poem: The Voice is about a woman who he believes is calling out to
hi. His subconscious mind is making think that the woman is calling
him, when really it is the wind blowing. We can presume that this
woman is his late wife, who died in the same year this poem was
Stanza one opens with a very powerful word: “Woman”. (Stanza 1, Line
1) This is a very powerful word because woman is a very strong word to
call a lady, or the audience or reader could interpret the woman as a
very unusual greeting, it could show that, at this point of time
(December 1912) is in control of hid emotions.
The word “Woman” can also create a feeling of loss because, she has
died and he has bereaved her, he does not feel close to her no more.
So the only way he feels he can greet her, is with the cold word, in
this context, “Woman”. We could also interpret the way he says
“Woman“, shows a sense of distance.
“How you call to me, call to me” (Stanza 1, Line 1) The repetition
makes it seem as if he cannot quite reach her, this emphasises her
intangibility, because the repetition makes it seem like an echo. It
is like a feeling of mystery, an echo effect, which makes it appear as
if emotions from the past are still hanging on from the past.
In Stanza two, Hardy tries to demonstrate to the reader that he is
hearing voices, and to him he thinks it is Emma, his first wife.
Stanza two talks about a memory that Hardy can still remember and is
fond of, because he remembers every last detail: “Even to the original
air – blue gown” (Stanza 2, Line 8). For Hardy to remember the details
of his wife’s dress creates the mood of happiness and youth and
reinforces memories of his late wife.
We again see examples that Hardy’s emotion from the past are still
clinging on to him, because he is desperate to see and hear her again.
“Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,” (Stanza 2, Line 5)
The line “Let me view you, then,” shows similarity with this poem, The
Voice and The Going because even in the poem The Going, Hardy is so
intent on seeing her that he imagines her: “At the end of the alley”
and similarly in the poem The Voice he desires to see Emma, creating
similar images from the two poems.
Stanza three, is when Hardy comes face to face with reality and
realises what other possible explanations, it could be, other than the
woman (who we presume is his late wife) calling out to him:
“Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness” (Stanza 3, Line 9).
This line creates an image that the wind has no sense of direction, no
purpose. That line could be interpreted as a metaphor to Hardy’s
feelings, that he has no energy to keep moving forward, because he
feels as if he cannot go on without Emma. The word “listlessness” also
creates the mood of helplessness.
“You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness” (Stanza 3, Line 11)
creates the imagery that Emma, is fading away. She is leaving his
mind. ”Dissolved” emphasises her intangibility. And just to reassure
him of reality that Emma has really gone he says:
“heard no more again far or near “(Stanza 3, Line 12)
In the last stanza of The Voice, we see the final imagery of Hardy
being emotionally unstable: “faltering forward” (Stanza 4, Line 13).
“Faltering” creates an illustration, of Hardy, stumbling through life,
as if he cannot control himself.
“Leaves around me falling”(Stanza 4, Line 14) Shows how Hardy is
trying to deal with his bereavement, because the leaves falling
represent the end of Emma’s life, and gradually people have to die,
Autumn represents end of life, because in Autumn dead leaves fall.
Hardy tries to represent Emma’s death as dead leaves. I think he is
trying to day that death happens to all and like in autumn, when most
things die. It’s due to nature and nature cannot be stopped. This
creates a feeling of abandonment, emotional detachment, coldness and
the feeling of regret. The leaves fell and Hardy could not do anything
about it. Emma died and Hardy could not do anything to stop it. It is
all down to nature.
Hardy shows loss and regret when: “wind oozing thin through the thorn”
(Stanza 4, Line 15). Because “oozing” seems like a warm word, as if
Hardy is comforted by nature. That line, I believe tries to show Hardy
is the wind trying to move on, but is struggling because his
remorsefulness and sorrow for loosing his wife is making it hard to
This poem The Voice is about the subconscious mind of the poet, of
when the wind blows he thinks “woman” (presumably his late wife, who
died in the same year this poem was written 1912) is calling out to
him. The poet, Hardy is not talking to an audience, he is addressing
to a particular “woman”. To show that he does not know her. The poem,
The Voice, does not tell a story but rather an event for him. Because
he remembers personal events such as the times where she: “would wait
for me” (Stanza 2, Line 7). The setting of this poem is based on a
woman calling him in the midst of nature.
The feelings and moods suggested through this poem are loss and
regret, abandonment and coldness, Hardy has to move on and accept
reality. Emma has gone: “Heard no more again or far” (Stanza 3, Line
In the poem: At Castle Boterel, in the first line we see that Hardy is
unsure of what to do:”As I drive to the junction of lane and highway”
(Stanza 1, Line 1). This shows a feeling of uncertainty, Hardy is
uncertain of what to do. The junction represents where he is at, like
a metaphor, because in life he has to make decisions, just like you’d
have to at a junction. The highway symbolises fast life and the lane
symbolises the simple and tranquil life he could lead.
In the same stanza, Hardy uses the phrase: “drizzle bedrenches”
(Stanza 1, Line 2), creating the imagery of a morbid depressing scene,
because drizzle is not a lot of rain, but it is enough to make you
feel dull and dreary. It creates a dismal mood, because drizzle is not
as exhilarating and exciting as total downpour. Also in the same
stanza we see that Hardy is alone and has to make decisions by
himself: “As I drive to the junction of lane and highway” (Stanza 1,
Whereas in stanza two, he is with someone else, we can presume that it
is his late wife as she died a year before this poem was written:
“Myself and a girlish form benighted” (Stanza 2, Line 6). We see that
he is now not alone and the stanza itself gives a mood of happiness,
because the stanza says: “dry March weather” (Stanza 2, Line 7). March
is seen as the beginning of life, things start to grow, and bloom in
spring (March is a month in spring). As if a new love was to grow in
spring. Furthermore there is a weather comparison between the two
stanzas. In the first stanza we see that the weather is dismal and
damp “drizzle” (Stanza 1, Line 2), where in stanza two see that the
weather is: “dry” (Stanza 2, Line 7), creates a complete a complete
In the same stanza we see that the tense that Hardy is writing in is
present tense. “We had just alighted” (Stanza 2, Line 8). From reading
the stanza we can see that Hardy is talking about a memory, but Hardy
is explaining his flashback in the present tense to show the
remorsefulness and guilt he feels of loosing Emma.
In the fourth stanza of the poem Hardy is reminiscing about how much
he and (presumably) Emma had fun, in that place: “A time of quality…
In that hill’s story” (Stanza 4, Line 17 & 18),
“A time of quality, since or before,
In that hill’s story?” (Stanza 4, line 17 & 18)
When Hardy uses a comparison on time “since or before” he makes a
contrast of time. He makes it seem to the audience that in that moment
of time, was the most magical or breathtaking event that ever occurred
in the hill’s history. That quote shows how Hardy feel, he is at loss,
the loss of his wife, that they can never have moments again like, the
moments they shared on the hill together again. This is how Hardy
shows loss and regret.
Further down the poem, in the sixth stanza we see that Hardy feels
regret of loosing Emma: “One phantom figure
Remains on the slope, as when that night
Saw us alight” (Stanza 6, Line 28 & 29)
And by using that quite Hardy is trying to illustrate that even if he
forgets Emma, the hills are evidence that Hardy and Emma were at one
point in time together and happy.
And in the last stanza, we see that Hardy is finally trying to move on
when he says: “for my sand is sinking,” (Stanza 6, Line 33). When
Hardy says this it creates an imagery that the sand symbolises or
represents his love and his love for Emma is slowly sinking and fading
away that is how Hardy shows loss and regret in his poems.
Hardy shows the feeling of loss and regrets in his poems, by using
nature and objects to symbolise the way he feels. I think he uses
nature and other objects to try and describe his feelings of loss and
regret because nature and the other techniques he uses add deeper
meaning to his feelings.
New Road, Boscastle, Cornnwall, ca. 1895: photochrome print by Photoglob Zürich, between 1890 and 1910; image by trialsanderrors (Library of Congress)
As I drive to the junction of lane and highway,
And the drizzle bedrenches the waggonette,
I look behind at the fading byway,
And see on its slope, now glistening wet,
Myself and a girlish form benighted
In dry March weather. We climb the road
Beside a chaise. We had just alighted
To ease the sturdy pony’s load
When he sighed and slowed.
What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of
Matters not much, nor to what it led, ―
Something that life will not be balked of
Without rude reason till hope is dead,
And feeling fled.
It filled but a minute. But was there ever
A time of such quality, since or before,
In that hill’s story ? To one mind never,
Though it has been climbed, foot-swift, foot-sore,
By thousands more.
Primaeval rocks form the road’s steep border,
And much have they faced there, first and last,
Of the transitory in Earth’s long order;
But what they record in colour and cast
Is—that we two passed.
And to me, though Time’s unflinching rigour,
In mindless rote, has ruled from sight
The substance now, one phantom figure
Remains on the slope, as when that night
Saw us alight.
I look and see it there, shrinking, shrinking,
I look back at it amid the rain
For the very last time; for my sand is sinking,
And I shall traverse old love’s domain
Thomas Hardy: At Castle Boterel, March 1913, from Poems of 1912-13, in Satires of Circumstance, Lyrics and Reveries (1914)
Boscastle from Penally Hill. The centre of Bascastle viewed from the coast path on Penally Hill photo by Phillip Halling, 29 September 2009
Boscastle: the village from Penally Point. A view up the Valency valley from the west: photo by Chris Downer, 25 August 2009
Boscastle. Looking down on Boscastle from the coast path above the harbour: photo by Tony Atkin, 7 September 2009
Boscastle. From Penally Point: photo by Rob Taylor, 24 July 2003
Merlin's Cave viewed from Barras Nose. With the bridge across to Tintagel Castle to the left: photo by Trevor Rickard, September 1986
Barras Nose. Barras Nose is one of the many promontories on this coastline: photo by Tony Atkin, 7 September 2009
Quartz on the cliff, Boscastle. The quartz is found as veins in the slate, and occasionally in what appear to be large chunks, but in some cases at least there is only a veneer of quartz over the slate. In effect, these are exposed veins: photo by Humphrey Bolton, 7 May 2009
Rock formations. Rock formations on headland above Boscastle Harbour: photo by David Ashcroft, 4 August 2006
RockyValley mouth. Looking north where the little gorge carved through the slate meets the sea. The coast path crosses here, but it is possible to take the path on the left for a closer look out to sea: photo by Trevor Rickard, September 1986
Boscastle harbour and landscape, Cornwall: photo by JUwel, 14 April 2004
In Boscastle (Kastell Boterel), Cornwall: photo by Dietrich Krieger, 25 May 2010