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This poem is one of the famous sequences of poems that Thomas Hardy wrote to commemorate the death of Emma, his wife, and to try and come to terms with his grief and her loss. As such, the poem evokes his own sense of isolation, loneliness and despair as it pictures the speaker of the poem walking in the countryside surrounded by a strong wind in autumn, haunted by the voice of his wife that he supposedly hears on the wind.
Let us consider the final stanza, which to me, captures in essence the feelings of loss and despair that are evoked in this poem. At this stage the poet is in doubt concerning the reality of these "voices" that he hears:
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.
Note the alliteration in "faltering forward" and "falling" and the way that the heavy stresses in this stanza create a depressing scene, but most of all we are left with the image of an old man alone, stumbling forward against the wind, surrounded by the leaves of autumn, itself a symbol of death. The last line is perhaps most evocative of the way that as he stumbles forward he is still haunted by the "calling" of the voice of the woman. The coupling of "calling" and "falling" together is symbolic of the effect of this haunting voice on the speaker.
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