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.