Is Thomas Hardy's "Paying Calls" about the consequences of the lack of communication with friends?

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Stephen Holliday eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although not a formal elegy, Thomas Hardy's "Paying Calls" is an elegiac poem--that is, it is a meditative statement about the loss of friends--and it reflects his visits to old friends who are long dead.  The use of "paying calls," which usually denotes visits to friends, is used ironically (and humorously) in this poem in that Hardy describes his visits to graveyards:

I went by footpath and by stile
Beyond where bustle ends,
Strayed here a mile and there a mile
And called upon some friends.

The first two lines tell use that he is going to a place "where bustle ends," and this line gives away the purpose and place of his visit: graveyards are the only places where the activity of life--the "bustle"--ends.  Because he has to go on footpaths and over stiles (small bridges from one field to the next), we know that he is visiting his friends in country churchyards, probably in Wessex where he grew up.

In the final stanza, it becomes clear that Hardy's friends have long passed away:

I spoke to one and other of them
By mound and stone and tree
Of things we had done ere days were dim,
But they spoke not to me.

Hardy's friends are all "by mound and stone and tree," which is an image of the graveyard, and Hardy's conversation with them is all one-sided, of course, because he is that only one still alive.

Given the meditative tone, and no indications of regret on Hardy's part relating to communication with his friends, it is unlikely that the poem even considers the problems inherent in a lack of communication.  Hardy certainly expresses a tone of regret, especially when he says that his friends "spoke not to me," but he is sad only because his friends are gone, and he remains the only one among them who can memorialize their youth "when they used to roam."





user1215713 | Student

Paying Calls is visiting people and it is a comon Social and....

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