Hardy Poetry Anthology

A summary of the Hardy Poetry Anthology, including the message/story of the poem, key features, and moods.

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Neutral Tones

Story: Neutral Tones is a poem made up of four stanzas written by Hardy as a way of mourning the loss of his wife. In the poem, Hardy describes a desolate scene of a dying tree by a grey pond, using this as a memory of his wife and how she suffered, as well as a reminder of how love can deceive.

Mood: The overall mood of the poem is one of sorrow and desolation.

Key Features: 

  • A circular structure to represent the fact that Hardy has not made much progress with his emotions in the poem.
  • Desolate language e.g. starving, deadest, fallen, ash, grey. This represents the idea that he feels his relationship with his wife has died along with the scene.
  • Unnatural images e.g. the starving sod and the white sun to represent the guilt Hardy has in this poem - he feels that he is responsible for the loss of his wife.
  • The main image of a dying tree by a pond. The tree, possibly an ash tree, was once beautiful but is now dead with no means of fixing it, like their relationship. The pond is still water, not rushing with life.
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I Look Into My Glass

Story: I Look Into My Glass is a poem made of three stanzas written by Hardy when he was an old man. It describes vividly the damage old age has done to his body, how he longs to be free from emotion (loneliness) so he could stand waiting for his death, and how he feels Time is responsible for his suffering.

Mood: The overall mood of the poem is one of sadness and blame.

Key Features:

  • The regular rhythm of the poem could be like the throbbing of his heart.
  • Hardy victimises himself; he potrays himself to be frail with words such as fragile frame, and describes Time as the overall villain by personifying it.
  • The use of glass could mean two things. On one level, it could just be Hardy observing himself with a mirror, but on another level, it could be him looking into a wine glass. Lone drinkers are said to be troubled.
  • The use of simple vocabulary makes sure that the meaning is emphasised and the underlying emotion is kept simple and clear.
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Drummer Hodge

Story: Drummer Hodge is a four stanza poem written by Hardy in memory of a drummer boy who had died in South Africa during the Zulu War. Hardy had been touched and angered by the story of the boy's death and wrote this poem to comfort the boy's parents and other families who had lost their relatives. He vividly describes the boy's death, emphasising on the crude burial, the foreign surroundings and the immortality earned by the dead in nature.

Mood: The mood is at first very sad and regretful, but then the tone changes to one of promise and comfort. The poem exudes poignancy.

Key Features: 

  • Foreign words and setting emphasise the distance of ths place from home.
  • Likening the boy to his drum; when he was alive, his drum would beat, but now he is dead, the steady beat has stopped.
  • Poetic conceit to comfort the parents with the idea that the boy will live on in immortal glory within nature e.g. the stars will become his, and he will grow a tree in the barren Bush. A British heart was said to be pure and make any land fertile.
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The Darkling Thrush

Story: The Darkling Thrush is a four stanza poem written by Hardy at the turn of the century, describing how he alone and hopeless he had become. But when he sees a small, old thrush singing in the windy night, he becomes more hopeful of the future.

Mood: The mood starts of scared and desolate to represent Hardy's hopelessness, but then changes to slightly hopeful, when he sees the thrush singing in the gloom.

Key Features:

  • The three main themes of the poem are ghosts, iscolation and disharmony, emphasised by the deathly vocabulary e.g. Frost, spectre-grey, Winter's dregs, desolate, corpse, crypt, death-lament, growing gloom.
  • The deathly images to emphasise the three main themes; Winter destroying the landscape and the century (personified) dying.
  • The contrasting happiness of the small thrush with the gloomy surroundings, with words such as esctatic, joy illimited, fling his soul. This is signified in the third stanza, with the words at once.
  • The word I is only used at the beginning and the end; personal.
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On the Departure Platform

Story: On the Departure Platform is a controversial poem with six stanzas. It could have several possible meanings: a) the poet feels the relationship is over, b) the poet's love dies, c) their love for each other is as much as ever, but she is dying, d) that his love is leaving or e) things will never be the same when she returns from her trip. The story is of someone biding someone they love farewell.

Mood: The overall mood is one of sadness; this is a very poignant poem.

Key Features:

  • Each stanza has three long lines and one short in order to emphasise the final line of each stanza and to create a feeling of being cut short, like their love.
  • She would disappear, Then show again' - we expect the poem to end on the previous line, but the line appears again; suggests she will keep appearing and disappearing.
  • The female character is not detailed because a) he could be wanting to forget, b) to have a universally implicable effect or c) she is a ghostly figure to him.
  • Simple language (monosyllables) to show the starkness and drive home the separation the poet feels.
  • Repetition to emphasise how carefully he is watching her.
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The Pine Planters

Story: The Pine Planters is a two part poem in the character of Marty South, a woman from one of Hardy's books (dramatic monologue). Marty loves the main character, but he loves another woman and mostly ignores her. This poem is about her feelings and how she longs to reveal her love to him.

Mood: The overall mood of the poem is one of despair and sadness, because she feels she can never be with her love.

Key Features:

  • The simple vocabularly, basic rhyme and unformed stanzas represent the fact that she is not very well educated.
  • Sibilance framing 'she' to represent her coldness towards the main character's love; Marty doesn't want to say her name because she blames her for taking her love away.
  • Image of a tree; fate has put Marty next to her love, unable to leave him, in the same way a tree cannot change it's location.
  • Use of sighing, an unhappy sound without a break because of the sad circumstances.
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The Convergence of the Twain

Story: The Convergence of the Twain (The joining of the two) is a poem which vividly describes the destruction of the Titanic, accusing humanity of their arrogance in thinking that they could challenge nature's authority with their splendour.

Mood: The mood is one of accusation and disgust, and as the poem progresses, a sense of foreboding is buit up. Not a cold poem, but it is not indifferent.

Key Features:

  • The marriage image of the Iceburg and the Titanic. The bride is a ship, ready for launch (being prepared for her wedding). The Imminent Will (the evil mother-in-law) prepares her son (the iceburg) for killing the ship. It grows in a more sinister way compared to the ship. A sense of foreboding is built up by mentioning none could forsee the horrible fate. Their 'wedding' was extremely unnatural and has a bad impact, because of the way the ship and the iceburg have been forcefully joined together.
  • Desolate scene under the sea, with the grotesque sea worms, the unpleasant fish contrasting with the once beautiful decour of the ship. Much bathos (anti-climatic).
  • Rhythm like the sea, encourages us to read the poem slowly at first - lots of polysyndeton, continuous end sounds.
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The Going

Story: The Going is a poem written by Hardy after the death of his wife, as a sort of therapy for coping with her death. He discusses his memories of her and how at first he blames her for leaving him, but then slowly comes to terms with her death.

Mood: At first the mood is of anger and accusation (raw emotions - self pity), but as the poem progresses, the mood becomes one more of understanding and forgiveness. (Accusatory - Regretful.)

Key Features:

  • Alternating stanzas (1,3,5 and 2,4,6) are similar.
  • Ideas are introduced with 'why' in stanzas 1,3 and 5.
  • Accuses her in the first couple of stanzas; he calls her indifferent, uses 'close your term', which is a legal term, asks why she's dying as if telling her off.
  • He still loves her and misses her; the use of 'morning' sounds like 'mourning' (related to death) and 'one glimpse' to show how desperate he is to see her again, he keeps thinking he's seeing her everywhere, remembers how excellent their relationship was.
  • The last line shows that he has completely fallen appart; he's desperately in love with her.
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The Voice

Story: The Voice is a very musical poem about Hardy missing his wife, and how he keeps thinking that he sees her and hears her even though she's dead.

Mood: The mood is one of sadness and regret, because he misses her and her company. 

Key Features:

  • Dactyllic pattern to create a rhythm. The rhythm is like the story - Hardy wishes to emphasise his story was cut off by his wife's death in the same way the rhythm meanders away from the dactyllic pattern.
  • Polysyllabic rhyme e.g. call to me, all to me (sounds like atler me - reveals his regret) you then, you then. Rarely used and so makes the poem striking. Creates and echoing effect, like a distant voice calling.
  • Desolate vocabulary e.g. listlessness and wistlessness to emphasise how desolate he feels without her.
  • Emphatic rhyme ('ooh' sound) to strengthen the meaning of the words.
  • Rhythm falters in the last line of the second stanza, and falls apart in the final stanza as a result of the caesura, like he does emotionally.
  • Short final line sounds defeatist; has an irregular number of syllables (emotional).
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