The Voice by Thomas Hardy
BACKGROUND • Thomas Hardy attributed this poem to the passing of his first wife, Emma • Hardy felt guilty about his inability to take proper care of Emma before her death • Hardy died in 1928, and was asked to be buried beside his wife.
THE VOICE Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me, Saying that now you are not as you were When you had changed from the one who was all to me, But as at first, when our day was fair. Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then, Standing as when I drew near to the town Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then, Even to the original air-blue gown! Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness Travelling across the wet mead to me here, You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness, Heard no more again far or near? Thus I; faltering forward, Leaves around me falling, Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward, And the woman calling.
LITERARY DEVICES • Rhyme scheme of “ABAB, CDCD, EFEF ND GHGH” – this is to give the poem rhythm and flow, to show readers the continuity of his love and emphasizes on his grief. • The repetition used creates a ghostly effect that Emma’s voice is speaking to him and haunting him.
STANZA ONE Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me, (Introduction to the subject of this poem; his wife. It is shown that despite her death, he still constantly thinks of and hallucinates about her. “Call to me, call to me” also resembles a ghostly echo, showing desperation and longing.) Saying that now you are not as you were When you had changed from the one who was all to me, But as at first, when our day was fair. (Here, the poet is suggesting that his wife is insisting that the woman he is seeing is in fact the very one he fell in love with all those years ago, not the one which contributed to their relationship souring in the later years.)
STANZA TWO Can it be you that I hear? (He ponders over the seemingly unbelievable fact that he could be hearing her voice. It also shows us that he has been reminiscing about his wife for a long time.) Let me view you, then, Standing as when I drew near to the town Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then, Even to the original air-blue gown! (He goes back and reflects to the beginning. He relives their meetings and his vivid memories of her, going as far as remembering the colour of her gown, shows us that he still clearly harbours deep feelings for her. It can also however, imply that he only loves her due to her physical attraction. He refuses to remember and long for the his wife in her later years. No matter what, he only seems to go back to times when she was young and beautiful.)
STANZA THREE Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness Travelling across the wet mead to me here, (He questions the actuality of his visions of her and begins to accept that maybe he is simply exaggerating the voice of nature to Emma’s voice.) You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness, Heard no more again far or near? (The image of his wife begins to fade away as he comes to terms to the fact that every image of her he creates may be the last one.)
STANZA FOUR Thus I; faltering forward, (He is telling us that without her, all he can hope to do is stumble through the rest of his life. The alliteration of ‘f’s represents the future clumsiness and unpleasantness of Hardy’s life.) Leaves around me falling, (When leaves fall from a tree, they are carried by the wind. This is symbolic of Emma’s death and control over him as although she may not be there physically anymore, her voice – her image – is always lifted by a breeze that surrounds him.) Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward, (“Oozing” is a word usually associated with the aftermath of injuries, like “oozing blood”. Emma’s death is a wound. He is hurt and the pain never seems to stop. The depth of his suffering is intensified with the word “norward” which represents the Northern wind; the strongest wind of all. And the woman calling. (This could imply that he is her voice is calling out to him stronger now, as the breeze turns into strong gusts of wind. Or it could show that her voice is being blown away, slowly but surely, as she withers away from him.)