How does the Thomas Hardy convey his feeling of loss in "The Voice"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Voice" comes as one of a series of poems which expresses Hardy's attempt to come to terms with the death of his wife and the sense of immense grief that he feels at her loss. Interestingly, we can link these poems in with the tone and style of the rest of Hardy's poetic work, identifying similarities in the way that his work always seems to oscillate between hope and despair, between joy and depression. In this poem, Hardy tries to recapture Emma's presence and existence, imagining that he hears Emma's ghostly voice calling to him and saying that she is once again the young woman that he courted. However, after this tantalising moment of rapture, Hardy is plunged back into his despair and grief, thinking that it is just the breeze taunting him.

On key way that the poem emphasises the feeling of loss of the speaker is through the presentation of the landscape. Note how its description enhances Hardy's emotional desolation, especially at the end of the poem. We have returned from the attractive and inspiring picture of Emma in her pale-blue dress back to the bleak landscape of death and winter:

Thus I; faltering forward,

Leaves around me falling,

Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,

And the woman calling.

Having had the respite that his vision has afforded him, Hardy is now left alone once more. Note how in this final stanza the metre breaks down completely, with an increased number of stresses. In effect the rhythm stumbles, enacting the "faltering" steps of the aged speaker as he is forced to cope with the hopes of reunion with dead wife being destroyed. Clearly, these lines place stress on the effects of natural change and decay, mirroring the same processes at work in human experience as Hardy is left still with the woman "calling" in his own mind and he is left to struggle alone, haunted and desolate, just as the landscape is around him.

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