Critical Analysis of The Voice By Thomas Hardy

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The Voice by Thomas Hardy was a really fun poem to interpret. Just like most poetry, I felt that after reading this several times there are many hidden meanings that give life and additional purpose to the poem. This poem takes the reader beyond the words on paper, and allows one to form several interpretations of the message that the author is trying to convey. It appears that this poem is about a departed lover. After doing some research, I agree with this assumption seeing as The Voice was actually written after Thomas Hardy’s first wife had passed. Apparently, they had grown apart during the later years of their marriage and it was also said that Thomas Hardy was having an affair with his secretary at the time. This seems to be relevant as throughout the poem, I felt a sense of guilt from the poet.The author also conveys this sense of guilt when in the last stanza he states,”leaves around me falling” I interpreted that as perhaps, the leaves, represent his sense of guilt, and by them ‘falling’ he is trying to leave it in the past.

The poem is primarily about an illusion of a voice heard by Thomas Hardy of someone who he loved who had passed,which can now be assumed is his wife. In the first stanza alone, Hardy conveys a sense of loss in different forms. The first three words “Woman much missed” shows that from the outset that this poem is one of lamentation. He discusses how he hears a voice of someone he has missed. Along with this, he gives the reader the impression that before “this person” he is referring to became “a voice”, they were facing many difficulties in their relationship. But even so, his repetition of “how you call to me, call to me” suggests that Hardy has a sense of urgency and desire to constantly hear this insistent voice. He also states, ” But at first, when our day was fair” which hints to the reader that towards the end of their relationship, things seemed to be a bit rocky. It is clear in this first stanza alone that Hardy misses the person behind this voice and the love they shared at the beginning of their relationship.

The second stanza shows a sense of disbelief between the poet and the connection he has with this voice. He seems to be unsure as to if this voice is actually who he hopes it would be and shows this by asking “Can it be you that I hear?” and insists that he wants to “view” this voice. This allows the reader to assume at this point that this is a spirit that is surrounding him but cannot be seen because they have passed. The poet also uses irony when he says “even to the original air blue gown!” This ironic message may be suggestive of the air or wind around him, which is a theme later seen in the next stanzas.

The next stanza is started with another sense of doubt of this voice as he asks ” Or is it only the breeze?” His uncertainty increases in the stanza as well, with the whole stanza becoming one big question. In this stanza we also seem some alliteration with “wan wistlessness” This word wistlessness seems to be made up by the author, but after reading this multiple times I was lead to assume that perhaps the author was trying to imitate sounds of the breeze he talks about with words such as wistlessness and listlessness.

In the last stanza he uses another alliteration as he says “faltering forward” which may represent him collapsing perhaps emotionally at this point. This stanza is also significant as its structured different than the other three stanzas. Perhaps as he starts to fall apart, so does the poem. Going along with the structure of the poem, the shape of a grave can kind of be seen as well. This may be a stretch but anything is possible in poetry! The first two lines of this stanza representing a tombstone, the third representing a casket, with the final line representing the body of the “woman calling.” This stanza also states “the leaves around me falling” which can represent Hardy’s guilt ‘falling’ or leaving it in the past as mentioned earlier. Perhaps he is referring to the guilt he has about the affair he had with his secretary while his wife was sick. Another alliteration is also seen in this stanza with “thin through the thorn.” In this case, this thorn may represent a pain while “the wind oozing” could possibly represent a decomposing corpse. However, with the last line of this poem we see that Hardy’s sense of denial and doubt diminishes as he says “and the woman calling.” It seems that he has finally accepted that the voice is in fact of his passed lover. Hardy paints a picture in this last stanza with the leaves falling and the wind oozing, allowing us to imagine a baron landscape, which could relate to sense of emptiness and loneliness, as “the voice” becomes a part of the landscape.

This poem is beautifully written and I feel that the descriptions used appeal to our senses, paining a picture in our heads, allowing us to experience the feelings along with the poet. Alliteration seems to be used constantly which gives the poem sort of a musical impact which allows the reader to interact and connect with the poem, while setting the mood of the poem, which appears to be quite gloomy. This poem is touching and relatable as Hardy gives voice to his feelings, concisely, but beautifully.

 

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But we will never lie down again.

Today I traveled to the pond but,

that exhilariting wind we

felt together has disappeared. Despite our will.

That reassuring feeling that came with the wind may never

return. The wind I felt today was a lie,

mimicking the way we went down.

It was taunting, but still reassuring. This time you aren’t coming back again.

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Prose is prose because of what it includes; poetry is poetry because of what it leaves out.

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When comparing poetry and prose, it is important to note that the two share some similarities. They both can be written in various styles in order to communicate ideas and thoughts. However, poetry is used more for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of its apparent meaning. On the other hand, prose is the most typical form of the English meaning, used to display one’s feelings or thoughts towards something, plainly and simply. Even the latin form of the word means “straight forward.” Simply put, poetry is more of an art where most of the time the reader has to determine the message that was trying to be sent. The reader gets to analyze each line and each description and put together the pieces of the puzzle to determine what the author wants the reader to know, but refuses to tell them. With prose, perhaps the reader may be moved by the ideas being made, but in prose meaning takes precedence, rather than the beauty of the words and ideas being used.

The language of poetry tends to be more expressive or decorated, with comparisons, rhyme, and rhythm contributing to a different sound and feel. It allows the reader to feel, hear and imagine different things just by reading certain words. For someone like me who finds it particularly hard to explain how I am feeling at a given moment, poetry allows me to use words and phrases, feelings and sounds, imagery and descriptions, to attempt to explain what goes on within the thoughts I can not seem to control. It stimulates the senses and branches out to a new form creativity, allowing one to travel beyond the words being read, and dive deep between the lines, to find the true meaning and purpose behind the words on paper.

Prose has a different effect on the reader. Although it may leave a certain effect on the reader, the effect is much more dull as compared to poetry. Prose has no formal metrical structure. It applies a natural flow of speech, and ordinary grammatical structure rather than rhythmic structure. It forces the reader to taking the writing for what it is and what it is telling them, rather than letting the mind roam free and form its own ideas and assumptions.

I think what makes poetry more appealing is the freedom that comes with it. It gives the mind a playground to run around and play in. We have the freedom to assume what a poem is trying to tell us. We have the freedom to relate a certain poem to a certain aspect of our life, perhaps to make us feel more comfortable or at ease with decisions we make in our lives. And personally, I think the best thing about poetry is that you may think that a poem is about something, while it could mean something totally different to someone else. In the words of my favorite band, “a kitchen sink to you is not a kitchen sink to me.” You have the freedom to relate what you read to your life, and give meaning to the words put in front of you.

But perhaps, at times, others may prefer prose depending on the situation it is presented in. With very little room for our own assumptions and freedom, some people may find this ideal. Some prefer to have a set explanation for why things are the way they are. They need that sense of closure or forwardness, to stop their mind from racing.