What is a summary and analysis of the poem "At Castle Boterel" by the poet Thomas Hardy?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Hardy's sentimental poem, "At Castle Boterel," depicts those chosen moments in people's lives in which the atmosphere of the natural surroundings coincide with people's inner moods, creating for them a transcendental experience.  It is such a memorable experience that the urge to return to it is strong, especially when one has lost the other with which the experience was shared.

In his poem, Hardy returns to the scene in which he and his deceased wife shared this transcendental moment.  With great poignancy, he reminisces about

Something that life will not be balked of
Without rude reason till hope is dead,
And feeling fled.

The spectral figure of his wife Emma is there on the slope, but he feels the memory of her slipping from him as he, too, has aged--"my sand is sinking"--and he knows that he will not return to the sight of their perfect moment of love and the communion of their souls with the magnificence of the Castle Boterel.

Hardy's poem is composed of the significant number of seven ("the seven stages of man") stanzas with five lines, or cinquains which have one short line with a rhyme scheme of ababb.  Making use of enjambment,  the continuation of a sentence or clause over a line-break, Hardy makes his verse more like the stream of thoughts while also adding audible interest as the lines do not, then, "jangle."

Thematically, Hardy touches upon the connection between land, which endures, and man, who is much the victim of Time.  Nevertheless, Love's victory at Castle Boterel is evinced as the poet's return reveals "the phantom figure." Therefore, the Hardy and Emma's transcendental moment has, indeed, been recorded in history, and human fate is inextricably connected to the land in a mystical way.