The poet has transitory tones of accusation, nostalgia, anguish and acceptance. It has six Septet stanzas. The rhyming scheme is ABABCCB. Alternate stanzas begin with a question although there is not regular pattern. This structured irregularity adds to the questioning tone of the poem and makes a huge contribution to its authenticity.
The first Stanza begins with a questioning tone as Hardy refers to the last night that Emma was alive. He complains as to why she left without giving him the slightest awareness. The word 'dawn' is metaphoric for Hardy's beginning as a widower. This accusation is ironic as earlier during the day that had Emma died, Hardy had not gone to see her despite being informed by their maid of her critical condition so it had of course always been Hardy himself who was indifferent. The use of the word, 'calmly' is suggestive of his envy. Emma was now in peace. But she had left him in irreparable guilt to suffer with the consequences. He accuses her for not telling him before she left and dissipated into the universe 'where he could not follow'. This is an euphemism for death as in Christina Rosetti's poem, 'Remember' where it has been referred to as the 'Silent land'.
According to many critics, this accusatory tone was a consequence of Hardy's exasperation at having lost the chance to redeem himself. As long as Emma was alive, Hardy was placated that there was still a chance to reconcile. But with Emma's 'going', he was devoid of even that chance now. There is a poignant irony in these verses because of the fact that as long as they had been physically separated, there was still a chance to bridge the gap but now they will remain estranged forever. And maybe it is easier to blame her than himself because no matter what he conjectured, she wasn't there to defend herself. No matter how unjustified his own accusations maybe, Emma wasn't there to justify herself. So, he attacked her.
In the second stanza, Hardy seems to be blaming Emma for their lack of communication. He is chiding her as she had never complained. If she had let him know how she felt distanced and estranged, he would have made attempts at amends. There is a pause after the first two verses to give time to make sense of what he's saying. The internal rhyme of 'bid' and 'lip' gives a sense of the distance between life and hereafter. He then describes that first morning of her death.he is being unequivocally bitter and sarcastic about the healing and comforting effects of morning. He brings in concrete elements. The words 'unmoved' and 'unknowing' amplify the sarcasm. The element of cement hardening is dramatically juxtaposed with the unchangeable, irrevocable nature of Emma's death. As Hardy begins to peel off layers, his angst increases. The fact that she is never coming back. The alliterative 'a' in the last verse of the second stanza has a decisive edge to it. There is a certain finality to it. It is Hardy concluding his thoughts.
The third stanza begins with a new question. Now Hardy wonders why Emma continues to haunt him. Why her presence still lingers. Why even now at times, he thinks it is her he is seeing as he turns at the 'alley of the bending boughs'. There is no pause after the first line. It is indicative of Hardy's frustration and anger. The use of the word 'breath' suggests the fleeting nature of life and death. The figurative use of the word 'dusk' creates a...