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This poem is one of a sequence of poems that Hardy wrote mourning the loss of his wife, Emma. In this poem, therefore, Hardy imagines that he hears Emma's ghostly voice calling him, saying she is once again the young woman he courted. However, in a despairing moment of grief and loneliness, he wonders whether it is simply the breeze he hears and he is left alone to make his way forward. "The Voice" gives us a real insight into the way that the speaker feels haunted by the memory of his wife, and we see an intense shift of emotion as in the second stanza the speaker rejoices in his thoughts of his wife as she was when he did court her:
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
The thought of her in this "gown" gives him one moment of illusory hope that he can somehow recapture these lost times and relive them again in spite of her death. However, the last two stanzas of the poem shift the mood to one of despair, loss and difficulty, as the speaker once again, having had a moment of hope, settles back into his life of solitude and difficulty:
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me fallilng,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.
Note how the alliteration and rhythm helps establish the mood of despair and almost enacts the "faltering" steps of the speaker left to push his way on in a stumbling fashion, still haunted by the ghostly voice he feels he can hear.
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