What Emotion Does The Last Stanza Evoke In You

Explain the speaker's feeling in the last stanza of the poem "The Voice" by Thomas Hardy, and the metaphor.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems a bit like unnecessary surgery to isolate the last stanza from this tear evoking poem because the feeling and meaning of the metaphor are inextricably bound to what precedes. Nonetheless, a discussion of the feeling expressed must refer to the preceding stanzas. "Thus I;" refers though a figure of speech word scheme technique called ellipsis to all that is said prior to "Thus I;". The word thus has several meanings and usages; Random House Dictionary (Dictionary.com) lists the first meaning and usage as: in the way just indicated. Thus, thus indicates what went before, not what follows. In this meaning, what follows sums up the consequences, results, conclusions, etc of what preceded.

Therefore, "Thus I;" isn't paraphrased as "See me go faltering forward ..." but rather as, "That's pathetic me, listening to an imaginary voice on the wind telling me you'll be back and well and young and fair; that's me, asking the voice to let me see you in the "air-blue gown" you first wore; that's me ... knowing the voice is only the wind and you are nothingness." If we were to fill in the ellipsis references, we might write: "Thus sadly go I;". The semicolon at the end of the ellipsis is significant, which is why I keep including it: It corroborates the division between the meaning of "Thus I" and "faltering forward." Bear in mind that while there is a relationship between "Thus I" and "faltering forward," the emotional impact, the feeling, is evoked by the relationship of "Thus I" to the three stanzas that preceded it.

Yet, the feeling is carried further by the relationship with "faltering forward," which has a similar ellipsis and might be filled in this way: "Now I go faltering forward," making "faltering forward" more clearly the result of the feeling, not the whole feeling. This doubling of effect, this doubling of feeling, results in this sorrowful poem, which evokes sympathetic tears, having a second emotional plateau in which the reader may experience an added twist to the heart, adding tears to tears, as the reader realizes how the speaker's feelings affect his physical presence and activities: his feelings of suffering and loss are not just internal; they make him falter and stumble; they show his pain tangibly to any passer-by.

The metaphor of the poem at large is a comparison of a voice calling on the wind to the poetic speaker's longing for a beloved woman lost to a seemingly old-age- and illness-ridden death ("When you had changed from the one who was all to me, / But as at first, when our day was fair"). A metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things, which is written without the use of the comparative words as, like, though (e.g., love though a rose), even though (e.g., love even though a thorn).

The final metaphor comparing a cold northern wind to ooze ("Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,") gives a liquid quality to the movement of air suggesting a slow passage of liquid through the bare branches of thorn bushes while late autumn or early winter leaves fall about the speaker. This imagery adds to the sense of faltering and accentuates the physical manifestation of the speaker's suffering while also expanding his private loss and grief to the physical elements around him: not only has he lost his love, but the world has turned unfriendly and difficult without her "air-blue gown."

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As one of several elegies that Thomas Hardy wrote after the death of his wife, Emma, at whose death Hardy himself was not present, this poem reflects Hardy's terrible sense of loss.  Overcome with grief and some guilt, Hardy attempts in the last stanza to establish some order in his life by moving on.  However, these attempts are faltering; this staggered movement is reflected in the arrangement of punctuation and poetic devices.  For instance, Hardy writes a short phrase halted by a semicolon, then moved quickly by the alliteration:  "Thus I; faltering forward."  His conflict with illusion and grief is exemplified in the following lines:

Leaves around me falling,

Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,

And the woman calling.

The use of pathetic fallacy conveys the poignancy of Hardy's attempt to reconcile his wife's death with some natural order. The poem ends as it has begun with the haunting voice of his wife calling to him on the wind, the metaphor for his terrible grief.