An epitaph is an inscription upon a tomb, in few verses for the casual observer to read carefully. It is usually carved in stone and is very synthetic. The Elegy is much more lengthy than an epitaph. The two genres differ not only in lengths, but also in subject matter, since the epitaph is a ‘report’ concerning the deceased, the elegy is an expression of ‘mourners” sorrow. As for the setting and space, the epitaph is part of a spatial monument, the elegy of a temporal ritual.
Epitaphs are normally about the deeds and qualities of a particular deceased person and they claim our attention; whereas funeral elegies are about the thoughts and feelings of those who mourn. “Afterwards” has an elegiac quality and embodies numerous sensory impressions and language used is emblematic of Hardy’s style. It is mostly complex in meaning. Rhythm, rhyme and punctuation, not only give an appropriately solemn, funereal quality to the poem, but these also guide the reader to the final climax of the poem ‘Till they rise again, as they were a new bell’s boom’.
As with many other poems, the structure gives a sense of diminuendo; from ‘Present’ to ‘Future’ or to even ‘eternity’ as implied by the former verse. The poem opens with an image of the personified ‘Present’ that ‘latches’ behind the speaker. Hardy uses the word ‘postern’ which probably is associated to ‘posterity’ and to the succeeding generations. Hardy refers to his life as a ‘tremulous stay’, this image connotes to the word ‘tremor’. Thus, he alludes to the fact that he was old, when he wrote this poem and is now concerned about what his reader will think of his work ‘will the neighbours say’.
Although, the dismal tone which is perceived at the beginning of the poem, the language used conveys visual imagery of nature, which is perceived ‘Delicate’ and positive. Thus, it is in the month of May, when green leaves “delicate-filmed as new-spun silk” vibrate in the breeze. Here, Hardy might have used this simile, to associate the new leaves with the innocence and youth that the poet has lost. The “new-spun silk” can be also associated with the silk of a cocoon, within which the process of metamorphosis occurs, emphasizing a new life (probably rebirth).
The stanza then ends with a question posed to the reader; he is keen to know if he will be remembered as “a man who used to notice” the smallest natural elements. He emphasizes that people do not see ‘such things’. The tone of the poem changes into a dismal one, conveyed by images of death, for instance the word ‘dusk’. Moreover, this verse recalls the image of the dying smile and with an ‘ominous bird a-wing’; here it’s the ‘dusk… like an eyelid’s soundless blink’ and a ‘dewfall-hawk’ that crosses ‘the shades to alight / upon the wind-warped upland thorn’ (lines 6-7). Again, Hardy uses supernatural elements.
In the third verse the speaker asks if spirit may continue to ‘pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm”. The latter, may evoke the idea of him being in a grave, in the ‘nocturnal blackness’. The author uses dramatic irony as he represents his death, the image is of a hedgehog that “travels furtively over the lawn”, which metaphorically alludes to his spirit that would do the same. As is the case in many other Hardy’s poems, here winter is associated with death in “Afterwards. ” However, the ‘full-starred heavens’ give a more positive attitude, also “they rise again”.
This seems to be conveying the idea of resurrection of all mankind. Here, we may take “they” to mean also both ancestors and ‘postern’ who have heard and will hear the bell throughout history. At the end Hardy looks on after death recalling the title of the poem ‘Afterwards’. Moreover, there is the image of those who will come after Hardy, gazing to the night skies and remembering the poet. With the poem’s conclusion, as the church-bells ring, emblematic of the comforting message of Christianity that we may be remembered affectionately by the living.
The poem, then, becomes Hardy’s bell of ‘quittance’, a song celebrating his life. In conclusion, the poem possesses an “eulogistic” quality, in fact, Hardy would have wanted to be remembered for his love of nature and probably wanted to be remembered by this poem. The numerous sensory impressions of the poem, coupled with the conflict of faith and the informing details of Hardy’s life as a “man of Wessex,” make this poem a suitable ‘epitaph’ for Hardy. ‘During wind and rain’ The poem depicts Emma’s family, through Hardy’s memory.
Hardy is visiting another place from his past with Emma, and again the harsh passing time is the major theme. As long as Hardy is alive, objects and places, as ‘gravestones’, will have her name carved on them. Here, he remembers a moment when the family had gathered to “sing their dearest songs”. Hardy evokes a memory of music and immediately after the reader is reminded of the passing time and decay. “Ah, no; the years O! /How the sick leaves reel down in throngs. ” Thereafter, the music has ceased and sounds of the dead winter leaves being blown by the wind, are the only thing which can be heard.
The word ‘reel’ aptly conveys the idea of the leaves falling, as “throngs” evokes the sound of dry leaves being brushed together. In these lines Hardy is preparing the reader for the ‘storm’, while subtly and tacitly he is excellently describing what happens in one’s mind when we remember somebody which we dearly love, but lost. At first, these memories bring joy, like music to our ears, but then we feel completely tormented by those same joyful memories, because those people who brought us that joy are now gone forever.
In the second stanza, Emma’s family is remembered during their ordinary activities, when ‘elders and juniors’, work in the garden to make “the pathways neat/And the gardens gay. ‘ Through these lines we get a glimpse of Emma’s family lifestyle. They used to live according to rural customs, in strict contact with nature. This relationship, is a very Victorian theme. In fact, Victorian poets used to find peace in their escape into nature, which brings them comfort and find in ‘hearthside ease’.
Moreover, the aim of his representation of village life is thus done partly to metaphorically argue about those local values at the point of their vanishing, thus Hardy’s recording of family traditions, folk-tales, popular songs and dances, and the vanishing vocabulary of the Wessex dialect; and his registering the impact of other changes of rural life. Nonetheless, “the white storm birds wing across the sky;” announce the coming of a storm. Here, the title is recalled. Later, while they are “blithely breakfasting all” the wind removes the dead rose from the wall.
The alliteration “rotten rose is ript,” are three simple alliterated words but convey a complex image. We get the impression of the wind’s strength and the fragility of the ‘rotten’ flowers, the latter are probably a metaphor for old age when people a more fragile, just like the ‘tremulous leaves’ in ‘Afterwards’. In the fourth stanza, the family is now moving to “a high new house. ” Here, Hardy refers to their possessions as if wanting to highlight their material comfort. Thus, he might be metaphorically emphasizing their efforts and hard work which have been paid back to them.
Although they possess the “brightest things” the “rain-drop ploughs” down on their gravestones; which implies that after their death, time will even erase their lives and only through future generations’ memory the dead can be brought alive by. In this poem Hardy’s rigor in structure and rhythm can be traced. In the second line of each stanza, we denote the members of the family “He, she, all of them”, then the “Elders and juniors”, the “Men and maidens” stanza and each stanza begins with the personal pronoun “they”. In stanzas 1 and 3 “Ah, no; the years O! ” is repeated in stanzas 2 and 4 “Ah, no; the years, the years”.
He also gives us an understanding of their rural dialect by using the exclamation such as “yea” “aye” in stanzas 12 and 4. The use of such slang seems at first to ruin the poetical style, however these words gives us more detail to who the characters were and reflect the rhythm of the song, sung by the family. In conclusion, ‘During Wind and Rain’ is another example of elegy, it is a lament for the destruction which time and fait bring to everything. As in, In Time of “The Breaking of Nations”, it is the sense of the simple and ordinary, combined with a lack of particularity in the images, which gives the poem its universality.
Rhyme is also handled very aptly and follows an abcbcda pattern, so the first and last lines are linked by rhyme emphasizing the contrast and at the same time continuity throughout the poem “yea/play”, “aye/gay”, “yea/bay”, “aye/day”. Continuity is also conveyed through annual changes which metaphorically mirror the changes in the human condition. What strikes the most is the poem’s richness of imagery and sound, which incredibly bring Hardy’s memory alive. He uses his memories to a further extent, to represent his life but at the same time everybody’s.
His poems are eternal. ‘After a journey’ Hardy fails to ‘Wither, O whither will its whim now draw me? ‘. There is a desire but absent voice and a need to ‘track’ the presence of Emma’s ghost in the landscape governs much of the sequence, and typically Hardy does not discover the presence signaled by ‘voice’, but rather, at best, a vision of his dead wife as she once was which he can sustain only momentarily. In the opening line of ‘After a Journey’ ‘Hereto I come to view a voiceless ghost’, eliminates the possibility of speech.
Again, the poem deals with the immanence of memory and the production of an image of Emma; an image of courtly love. Probably, Hardy writes this poem in the period of recovery through his assertion that Emma ‘will have, Dear, to vanish from me’. However, Hardy probably ‘love triumphs over time’, asserting that ‘all’s closed now, despite ‘Time’s derision’. Hardy’s uncertainty and tension is even conveyed through the metre. The number of syllables in each line varies between 9 and 15, but each line is regular in that each contains 4 stresses.
The title emphasizes the result of the undertaken ‘Journey’, however the poem seems to speak about the actual journey. It is about the poet’s resolution of feelings during the journey and retrospection. The poem itself is the vehicle for resolution and is the means by which the journey comes to reality. The actual voice in the poem is that of Hardy’s conscience. ‘I come’, he argues as if an obligation. The first two lines speak of a spiritual mourning – as one might feel in forcing oneself to face the memories of one whom one has betrayed emotionally.
Thereafter, the mood slightly seems to change into that of spiritual exhaustion. By using the word ‘whim’, Hardy possibly wants the reader to understand how he feels, as if justifying himself for viewing his wife as a ghost, he is out of control. The latter is also emphasized by the line ‘Up the cliff, down’. The stresses in this metre accentuates the fractured and uncertain nature of the poet’s thoughts. In addition, the ‘up, down’ convey an idea of the poet’s loss of direction , who then settles down, as emotionally more deep – ‘lonely, lost’.
Hardy emotions are like ‘Unseen waters’, metaphorically symbolize life and the subconscious, which he confronts in this poem. Hardy’ s use of language is very apt, he describes Emma as a ‘rose flush’, which recalls line 23, ‘all aglow’. The image of her is intensely physical, perhaps implicitly sexual. The reader gets strongly engaged in Hardy’s memory. The sounds of wind and nature as a whole, coupled by the ghostly presence of these ‘gray eyes’ and the direct speech lead throughout his journey until the final lines when surprisingly the ghost vanishes from him.
As if awaken by the ‘whitens hazily’, the reader is now prepared to find a happy ending. Hardy’s ending seem positive and assuring. At the end of the poem, there is a harsh rhyme (‘lours/flowers’) and a declaration which, it seems to me, can only be read ironically and hopelessly against the background of loss ‘I am just the same as when/Our days were a joy, and our paths through flowers’ nearly as if stating ‘but you are not’. The ‘Trust me … though Life lours’ introducing this declaration might imply a recognition that trust may be betrayed.
At Castle Boterel was written in 1913. The poem remembers a certain moment in the lyrical voice’s life that is associated with a deeply significant memory related to a relationship with a woman. At Castle Boterel has a nostalgic tone, as it meditates on a sentimental remembrance.
The poem has seven stanzas with uneven lines and it has an ABABB rhyme scheme. The poem constructs a distinctive rhythm as the final line of each stanza is short and rhymes with the previous line, forming a couplet. These are used to make subtle emphasis or contrasts at the end of each section.
At Castle Boterel can be read as an elegiac poem, as it grieves for a loved one and recalls the memories shared with him/her. The lyrical voice refers to the present time at the beginning and at the end of the poem and to the past time in a middle section that emphasizes a description of this loved one.
At Castle Boterel Analysis
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,
The first stanza sets the scene. The lyrical voice describes the present situation he/she is in (“As I drive to the junction of lane and highway”). This presents a crossroad, both literary and metaphorically, as the lyrical voice arrives at a junction between roads, but this presents a chance to meditate over past events. Notice the scene: “And the drizzle bedrenches the wagonette”. The lyrical voice needs to stop for a moment, at the junction, and this serves as a way to pause life and “look behind at the fading byway”. Thus, the lyrical voice will introduce past events in a flashback form, which is presented through aesthetic distance (“And see on its slope, now glistening wet,/ Distinctly yet”). The rhyme enhances the narration and the final line creates an abrupt cut that will link the following stanza directly. In this stanza, the lyrical voice is isolated and gloomy, creating a depressing and nostalgic tone.
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.
The second stanza presents a past image. This image contrasts with the image represented in the previous stanza: the lyrical voice is no longer alone (“Myself and a girlish form”), the climate varies greatly (“In dry March weather”), and the tone is dramatically different. The lyrical voice presents this action in the same location, but in a different time. This occurs in his/her mind, as it is a memory that is being revisited. The attention is on them and their actions, rather than the scenery (“We climb the road […] We had just alighted [,…]”). The rhyme accentuates the nostalgic tone by the repetition of a “d” sound at the end of each line. Moreover, there is alliteration with the “s” sound throughout the stanza.
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.
The third stanza emphasizes the irrelevance of actions. The lyrical voice says that: “What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of/Matters not much, nor to what it lead”. Nevertheless, the lyrical voice is aware that this made him/her have feelings afterwards. Notice how we are still in the lyrical voice’s memories and he/she talks about losing these feelings (“And feeling fled”) and how they become irrelevant (“Without rude reason till hope is dead”). In this particular stanza, the lyrical voice uses irony in order to convey a certain realization, alongside with a sharp tone.
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.
The fourth stanza projects the feelings of the lyrical voice. The memories are traced back (“It filled but a minute”) and the lyrical voice describes the moment in which he/she felt strong and powerful feelings. Nevertheless, these feelings appear not to be reciprocated. The lyrical voice uses a rhetoric question in order to express this and to create a tone of regret (“But was there ever/A time of such quality […] in that hill’s story?”). With the comparison to the mountain, the lyrical voice creates a symbolism and, at the same time, he/she answers to his/her own question. Many others have already climbed this mountain (“By thousands more”). Notice how the lyrical voice prioritizes quality in memories over quantity or length because of what he/she said from the beginning (“A time of such quality”).
Primeval 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.
The fifth stanza increases the time-scale in the memory. The lyrical voice goes back in time (“Primeval rocks”) and depicts a great ancient age where rocks are lying on the road’s borders (“And much have the faced there”). This image serves as a symbolism, as the rock represents emotions and feeling because they too go up and down and through “transitory in Earth’s long order”. Notice the alliteration on the fourth line, used to emphasize the importance of these rocks. These indicate the feelings and the fact that both the lyrical voice and the loved one felt them (“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.
The sixth stanza intensifies the characterization of time. Time is presented as rigorous (“unflinching rigour”), mindless (“In mindless rote”), and powerful (“has ruled from sight”). Thus, Time is personified as an unforgiving taskmaster. Nevertheless, the lyrical voice talks about his memories (“The substance now, one phantom figure”) and how they are still very vivid to him/her (“Remains on the slope, as when that night/ Saw us alight”). The rhyme and alliteration emphasize this powerful remembrance.
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
The final stanza presents the lyrical voice’s attempts to forget these memories. The lyrical voice goes back to the present time and he/she sees this “phantom figure” “shriking, shriking”. This repetition emphasizes the lyrical voice’s gloom and desperation. He/she expresses a desire to change that memory and to get rid of it (“I look back at it amid the rain/For the very last time”). The lyrical voice has grown old and time is running out (“for my sand is sinking”). Moreover, the lyrical voice acquires a resignation tone as he/she “shall traverse old love’s domain/Never again”. These final lines create a dramatic ending to the poem.
About Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 and died in 1928. He was an English poet and novelist. Thomas Hardy was greatly influenced by southern England, where he was born and raised. His works expand through the Victorian and the Modern era. His most known works are his lyric poems which influenced great poets such as Philip Larkin, Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, among others. Hardy’s poetry concentrates on the musical aspects of language, by paying attention to the different possibilities of sound. He was greatly influenced by the Romantic Movement, and especially by William Wordsworth. Thomas Hardy viewed himself mainly as a poet, but he also wrote novels like Far from the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure, and The mayor of Casterbridge.