Thomas Hardy

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Please provide an analysis of the poem "Where the Picnic Was" by Thomas Hardy, including literary/poetic devices used such as language, personification, structure, themes, and tone.

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Thomas Hardy's speaker addresses a group of four people, which includes the speaker. The overall tone is somber and nostalgic. The primary imagery relates to the natural landscape and the passage of time. Summer and winter are contrasted, as are fire and ash. The speaker evokes these contrasts to create a context for their expression of sorrow over loss: one of the group's four members has died since the last time the group had visited this rural locale together.

Hardy uses the landscape both literally and metaphorically. The speaker mentions climbing a hill in winter to arrive at a "forsaken place." This is a spot that the group has actually abandoned, which also stands for a concept or relationship that the speaker has set aside.

The current time of year is winter, indicated by the cold wind. Furthermore, the "winter mire" through which the speaker climbs lies among gray grass. The lack of life symbolized by the wintry scene is also represented by the remnants of the fire. All that is left is a "burnt circle" with the "charred" bits of sticks.

In referring to these sticks as last relics, the speaker may be likening them to themself as they tell the reader that two of the group have gone to the city, and one has died. Thus this sole survivor may be a relic of their happy summer picnic-filled days—standing for careless youth.

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Please analyze the meaning and effect of the language (including poetic devices), form, structure and context of "Where the Picnic Was" by Thomas Hardy.

Hardy's "Where the Picnic Was" depicts a trip by the speaker to the place where a summer picnic once took place. The picnic has literally and figuratively made its mark on the landscape, just as it has on the speaker: Hardy depicts the "burnt circle" which represents the "last relic" of the group who visited the place in the summer. The word "relic" is important here; a relic is something more usually associated with saints, and in his use of it, Hardy is associating the summer excursion with something holy which is now lost to him.

Hardy's poetry frequently revolves around loss, and that is certainly the case here. Although the memory of the summer is "burnt" upon him as it is on the landscape (Hardy is often at one with the landscape in his poetry), it has now passed. Hardy uses understated, quiet language to indicate that one of the people who ventured to the spot with him in the summer is now dead—the manner of her death seems to have been peaceful; she has simply "shut her eyes" as if going to sleep. Her death is not presented as markedly different from the passage of the other two picnic-goers into the "urban roar" of, presumably, London or another city.

Whether by leaving the countryside due to death or simply due to circumstance, the net result is the same: the speaker is isolated, the last survivor of the "band" who once made a fire there. The speaker repeats the word "I," underlining the fact that he is now alone in his travels through a "forsaken" place, where the "winter" of the year seems to echo the winter of the speaker's life. The form of the poem also supports this melancholy interpretation, as the uneven number of lines in each stanza sees the final line standing alone, isolated and unrhymed, unpaired with anything else.

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