“The Voice” by Thomas Hardy was written after the death of his first wife Emma. Much of his later poetry reflects the her loss. Their marriage was not happy; however, after her death, Hardy seems to regret their estrangement and his lack of care for her during her illness. He wrote:
‘I wrote just after Emma died, when I looked back at
her as she had originally been, and when I felt
miserable lest I had not treated her considerately in later life.
However, I shall publish them as the only amends I can make.’
Knowing this background gives the reader a better understanding of this particular poem. The narration is spoken as though the poet is speaking to his lost love.
The poem consists of four stanzas which are constructed around a regular rhyme scheme of abab. The rhyme pattern conveys a sense of relentlessness as if the memories are tied to Hardy, and he cannot shake them
The imagery that the poet uses in the poem appeals to the auditory and visual senses. In the first stanzas, he repeats the phrase “call to me” which makes the reader think of an echo as though his love is calling to him from a far distance. Visually, his love tells him that she is no longer the beauty that she was when they first were both handsome and pretty.
The poet questions himself about if it actually is this woman. If it is, he challenges her to come to him just as she waited for him in the town in her sky blue dress.
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
The poet again questions himself. Appealing to the auditory senses again and using the alliteration of the “w” sound, he wonders if it is the wind that he hears calling across the wet meadow. Speaking to his lost love, he states that she has passed on to be but a pale empty shell of herself. She will never be heard from again in this life.
How does that leave the poet? The wind is “oozing thin”, which is an oxymoron, both thick and thin at once. It is as though the wind is mocking him. The reader can visual the poet falling forward to the ground among the leaves, with the north wind blowing around him and the woman still calling to him. What a sad place for both the poet and the reader to be left!