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The Significance of Spring and Summer in Thomas Hardy’s Poems

By seajay May 22, 2010 1815 Words
By Thomas Hardy

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly;
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at 'The Traveller's Rest,'
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.

The Significance Of Spring And Summer In Thomas Hardy’s Poems - Document Transcript

1. The Significance of Spring and Summer in Thomas Hardy's Poems, If It's Ever Spring Again, and It Never Looks Like Summer Mehdi Hassanian esfahani (GS22456) The Victorian Age (BBL5101) Lecturer: Dr. Wan Roselezam February 2009 2. Introduction: Reading about Thomas Hardy, and as the master students of English Literature, we all know that Hardy had a pessimist view on life and love, was watchful about relationships and interested in psychology of behaviors. His meticulous description of events and characters is not limited to humans, and even nature and animals play a role in the setting of what he narrates and are related to the theme. The following study examines the description of ‘summer’ and ‘spring’ in two selected poems by Thomas Hardy, to observe the significance of climate and seasons in the theme of the poems. The reason of this particular selection is the similarity between the two, in their mood, atmosphere, theme and even the ending. As a result, the analysis will claim the same thing, although it may seem inappropriate to generalize it to Hardy’s poetry. Interpreting imagery, particularly visual imagery in these two poems helps to understand their usage and the role they play to create the theme and setting of time and place. In this way, figurative language and the relationship between words would be examined to lead us to the theme and bring about the importance of summer and spring regarding the poems. It is expected that Hardy uses seasons to refer to nature and its beauty, in order to create a romantic setting, like other Victorian poets, and also uses ‘summer’ and ‘spring’ in the sense attributed to optimistic qualities, hope, [2] 3. warmth and love. But the careful observation of this may reveal a contrast which is made to intensify the underlying theme, and lead us to a pessimist view of Hardy in these poems. Accordingly, it will show that the mood of these poems “differs from Victorian sorrow; it is sterner, [and] more skeptical as though braced by a long look at the worst” (Stallworthy & Ramazani, 1852). If It's Ever Spring Again (Song) If it's ever spring again, Spring again, I shall go where went I when Down the moor-cock splashed, and hen, Seeing me not, amid their flounder, Standing with my arm around her; If it's ever spring again, Spring again, I shall go where went I then. If it's ever summer-time, summer-time, With the hay crop at the prime, [3] 4. And the cuckoos – two – in rhyme, As they used to be, or seemed to, We shall do as long we've dreamed to, If it's ever summer-time, Summer-time, With the hay, and bees achime (594). The poem, or as Hardy called it the 'song' If It's Ever Spring Again deals with spring and summer; two bright and shiny seasons which normally warm the nature and people by the energy and hope they spread around. Kinesthetic imagery of ‘going out’ in line three, stanza one and the plashing moor-cock supports the excitement which is in the air. Hardy depicts spring with many positive qualities, when happiness is all around. He doesn’t talk of common characters, but moor-cock and moor-hen, which according to Morgon, the editor and publisher of the annual Hardy Review, are “shy, undemonstrative creatures rarely drawn from their coverture under the river-bank to gladden the heart of spring” to emphasize this supreme enthusiasm. As a result of this depiction, the prominent imagery in this poem is the visual imagery; which suddenly puts us in the middle of the nature; but there are also auditory and, as we saw, some hints of kinesthetic imagery. [4] 5. At first, Hardy reminds himself a day in spring, when he (the persona) was able to stand next to the beloved ‘with arms around her’ and enjoy the beauty of spring. He feels prospered and thinks of spring as a complete season, as well as himself. Then in stanza two, he leaps to another memory in a summer day, with again the perfection of setting and the inner sense of fulfillment, when the ‘day crop’ is ‘at the prime’, ‘bees achime’ and cuckoos are singing in rhyme. The visual imagery which is connected to the golden color of the sun and the repetition of ‘summer’ in addition to the auditory imagery of birds singing free and cheerful, are effective devices to insure us of the blissful man, he feels inside. But it is not all. Richards explains that Hardy was interested in nature, and for him, like other Victorian writers, nature was equal to beauty, but also clarifies that “he was more interested in strangeness than conventional beauty” (190). It is as if the beauty of nature is not the ultimate goal of his poetry. Narrator’s effort to give an adequate visual imagery and create the setting of place and time is just a tool to carry out the profound meaning which is implied in the poem. The ‘if’s and ‘ever’s convey a sense of regret. Thinking of past days, the narrator cannot understand the lack which is now in his life. And the poem ends on a note, as if he lives in the past and doesn’t dare to face the future. In this sense, the whole poem seems not a delightful praise of spring, but an envy of the past. That’s Mellers’ view who considers this poem ‘a song of [5] 6. nostalgia’. Taking birds and bees, according to Cortus, the Vice President of The Thomas Hardy Association, as “collectively a trite euphemism for sex”, two cuckoos can be a metaphor of lovers (which includes the narrator), and his doubt in line 14, about their singing ‘As they used to … or seemed to’ be together, demonstrates the pessimist atmosphere which is settled in the mind, as well as the heart of this narrator that even cannot trust his beloved, and the past. This may explain the reason for the cock and hen ‘seeing not’ the narrator ‘amid their flounder’. In this case, the whole poem presents a continual abstract dreaming, disclosing the dimness melancholy that the narrator feels inside. It can suggest that the narration of past and this memory is not reliable, due to the obsession of narrator to his relationship, and the traumatic lost he has in his life. In the second poem, It never looks like summer, Hardy strongly uses ‘summer’ to display the peak of a relationship, the satisfaction and joyfulness which this season, apparently is connected to or is responsible to bring us. The poem lacks descriptive statements or cliché details of nature, and is much modern in the sense which looks like an internal monologue. It is written in a way, that one can conclude it wasn’t supposed to be published (although there is no evidence of such a thing), and is more like the private thoughts of its poet than a poem about ‘summer’. [6] 7. It Never Looks Like Summer "It never looks like summer here On Beeny by the sea." But though she saw its look as drear, Summer it seemed to me. It never looks like summer now Whatever weather's there; But ah, it cannot anyhow, On Beeny or elsewhere (507)! Here, the image of summer is overwhelming, though it is very general and there are no details. Hardy uses contrasts to express his feeling. Again, the prominent imagery in the poem is visual imagery, like the drear summer that surrounds us; however an abstract imagery can be derived from connotations of ‘summer’. Narrator implicitly attributes some positive qualities to summer, though he never names them. In the first stanza, he remembers a day when weather was not ‘summery’ a lot, but he felt so; perhaps due to a companionship. And now, in the second stanza, he feels cold although it is summer outside. The nature in general and ‘summer’ in particular is interweaved to persona’s life (both emotionally and [7] 8. physically), though they do not always match together. In other words “the thinnest partition divides man’s existence (including his mental existence) from the rest of nature” (Richards, 196). This is remarkable which in both If It's Ever Spring Again and It never looks like summer, climate and seasons metaphorically are used to explore the feeling of the persona and “to register inner states of [his] feeling” (Blackburn, 15). The pessimist view of life and [the lost] love is repeated again; when narrator can say which season it ‘is’, but doubts if the beloved’s presence was real or the feeling was true, and claims that it ‘seemed’ summer to him. He prefers to sing bereavement poems, than face the reality and live in present, and the last two lines support this idea that he cannot think of future. He generalizes the unsatisfactory consequence of his attempts and his lost to all other happenings anytime in future and anywhere else around the world, and decides not to move and not to change; he dares not to look at the future because of his tragic experience. Talking about Hardy’s poetry, Blackburn asserts that the magnetism of his poems “is built around a complex of love and loss, memory and guilt, pain and self-pity, beauty and regret intermingled with something of delight” (12). In these two poems, he uses images of spring and summer and refers to nature to express the emotions and create the setting, so that he compares two conditions of past and present. To conclude, and as Berger states in the abstract of her PhD [8] 9. proposal, “Hardy's epistemology can be found at a meeting point of the senses-- primarily visual, emotions, imagination, will, and the external world”. Here, the primary setting and the visual imagery play a strong role, metaphorically, to the oppositions, and intensifies the sense of regret. This technique is effective in a way to create the atmosphere and express the sadness this persona feels in his present life. [9]

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