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Thomas Hardy's "She, at His Funeral" depicts a woman, who attends a funeral of a man that she knew. Though it may look short on the surface, Hardy's deeper meaning lies within. The title suggests that this poem focuses on the woman in it, placing her before the main event in the title. The narrator treats herself as almost an outcast, compared to the others in the procession. She refers to the people attending and the man's relatives as "they", and states that she follows at a "stranger's space". Yet this presents multiple connotations in the poem. The woman may be following at a stranger's space, due to the fact she was a stranger to the family perhaps, or even the man himself. However, there is a possibility that maybe she could have been the cause of this man's death, and rightly so she is cast out from the others attending the funeral. She goes on to present that she was the sweetheart of this man. Still, it is unsure of whether this is the truth, or perhaps she simply wanted to be the sweetheart of this man. Up to this point, the poem is presented as having an ominous tone, and a dark mood. The funeral is described as "slow" and "sweeping by". Additionally, it is depressing, as the narrator states that she has lost her sweetheart. However, there is a shift in the poem after the fourth line. The second half of the poem turns from the relationship the narrator had with the dead man, to the feelings and things she is going through due to his death. She describes herself as being in an "unchanged gown of garish dye". Perhaps due to the job she possesses, or maybe these are the clothes she was wearing when this man died, and she refused to change them. Whichever the case, she is not dressed properly for the occasion, which may be another reason to her standing far away. She follows this by depicting the others attending the funeral as having dark and black attire, yet they stand around his grave with no grief of his death. She is almost accusing them as this point, and the tone turns from depressed to angry. She is almost disgusted by the fact that this man's relatives are dressed for the occasion, yet they feel nothing for his death. Yet on the other hand, her regret "consumes like fire". What her regret is is unsure. But it bothers her deeply, and disturbs her mood. Possibly it is the regret of the loss of this man, but it could also be the regret in the fact that she could have been the cause of her death. Or even more deeply, it could be the fact that she never proclaimed her love to this man, but simply went about wishing she was his sweetheart, and now has lost her chance to truly be his lover. Whatever the case is, her regret burns inside her, and creates a great anger.
To accompany this feeling, Hardy uses several repeating "s" sounds in order to add harshness to the poem. The funeral is a "slow procession sweeping by", while she follows at a "stranger's space". And the relatives have a "sable-sad" attire; all of these emphasizing the vitriolic manner in which the narrator speaks. It exemplifies the anger she has towards the griefless relatives, and the regret she now has for the rest of her life. This poem was written sometime during the 1870's. Being unsure of the actual date does pose certain questions, because Thomas Hardy did get married to his first wife in 1874. If written before their wedding, this was possibly Hardy's way of expressing the love he felt for Emma Lavinia Gifford, his first wife. This could have been his way of letting out the feelings he had for her, but could not tell her, yet he knew if he did not then he would have a life long regret. This only presents more questions than already left in the poem itself by Hardy.
Later in his life during 1913 Thomas Hardy wrote "On a Discovered Curl of Hair". Like "She at His Funeral" deals with the death of a loved one, so does "On a Discovered Curl of Hair". Yet the drastic time between them, and the time period it's written in suggest a different motive for Thomas Hardy to compose this poem. Hardy suffered the loss of his first wife a year previous to writing this poem, which is made clear throughout it. The title itself explains the entire undertaking of the poem, and what truly went on in Hardy's mind at this point in his life. Taking place about a year after her death, it seems the poet has found a strand of his spouse's hair, and it takes him back. In the beginning of the first stanza, Hardy speaks of how the curl that he found waved about his wife's head during all the times they enjoyed. It was there when they met, and it flourished in the wind as they walked where the waves broke. Then he states, "to abate the misery/ of absentness, you gave it me."(7-8). This line has two different connotations. It can be referring to the fact that his wife is now gone, and to ease the pain of her being away, she "gave" him a curl. However, it can also refer to Hardy's wife allowing him to be with her, to help lessen the loneliness that she had had before, and gain a companion. Hardy exemplifies a reflective tone, as he reminisces about the time he had spent with his loved one, and the last two lines demonstrate the secure bond they had with one another. Yet in the next stanza, he speaks of how each of the "fellows" (9) of this curl have gone to gray, and are now locked up forever, for she has faded away. He shifts his tone from reflective, to a saddened mood, one in which he realizes that he will never be able to get his loved one back. In the last stanza, he speaks of how although all the hair on her head may have turned gray and died with her, this one curl that was left behind looks as if it were "untouched of time" (13). And he feels that he could even place it back on her lively head, in order for it to join its other fellow curls, just by traveling back to the place where she and he used to reside. The last stanza once again shows a sad and depressing mood, yet it is as if Thomas Hardy accepts the fact that he will not get his wife back, and even though he feels as if she is still alive and well, like the curl, he knows deep down inside that she is gone forever.
Overall, the poem illuminates the true inner feelings Thomas Hardy had for his first wife, whether or not they had a rough marriage. Though a majority of the poems Thomas Hardy wrote deal with his naturalist beliefs, this individual poem and several others that follow after the death of his wife show the true feelings and emotions Hardy had. He had set his realistic ideas aside, and while he knew he could not ever get his wife back, he liked to believe, if only for a moment that he would be able to spend time with her, just one more time through this strand of hair she had left behind. Even though the main focus of Hardy's motives was to express his feelings, he still has an underlying theme in which all can relate to. His poem exemplifies the fact that when someone dies, they cannot be brought back. No matter how much one person may care about them, they will never be able to come back. All that is left of them is memories and things they left behind. Thomas Hardy uses a great deal of imagery throughout this poem as his vehicle for his emotions and thoughts. He vividly describes the memories he had with her before she was gone, their walks on the beach in the hot sun. And as he shifts from the past to the present, he illustrates the rest of her curls now being gray and dead, trapped in a dark cavern never to return again. Continually, as he states that he feels he could simply place it back on her head, he describes the curl as being a "live brown" (14), and he would only have to return to the place they once lived to return it to its owner. Thomas Hardy's deep sorrow for the loss of his wife is truly exposed here, and though they may have had a rough marriage, he still did love her truly, as shown by the sadness he writes about.
A majority of the poems Thomas Hardy wrote dealt with naturalism, and the reality of life itself. One great example of this is his poem titled "The Convergence of Twain". In this poem, Hardy uses the event of the Titanic sinking in order to expose the pride and vanity of the world, as well as the eminent fate all must meet, death. He differs from his normal structure of lines and stanzas, as he breaks the poem into eleven numbered, three line stanzas; each stanza have the same rhyme scheme. In the first five stanzas, Hardy speaks of how the Titanic now sits at the bottom of the ocean. He states how it now sits far away from the "human vanity" (2) and "Pride of Life" (3) that once constructed it; this meaning that the ship was built by the overconfident man of the time period. The technology of the time period was thought to so high and mighty, yet the unsinkable ship now lay at the bottom of the sea. All the time and effort that was put into this prideful ship was now laid to waste, and it was all for nothing. Hardy goes on to discuss how cold waters flow through the ship now, and sea-worms crawl over the ship, indifferent to it. He asks "What does this vaingloriousness down here?" (V 3-4), ironically questioning how all the vain put into the project now means nothing, and pride came before the downfall. In stanza six however, Hardy introduces his main theme, fate. He states "Well: while was fashioning/This creature of cleaving wing,/The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything" (VI). He takes the "immanent will" or rather, fate, and uses the symbol of a bird to exemplify it. The bird, fate, followed closely behind all the conceit and smugness the ship had, and it now rests at the bottom of the ocean, with the ship itself. From here, Hardy proceeds to compare the times when the ship was being built, with all its happiness and grace, to at the same time, the growing of the iceberg that would one day destroy it. He uses the ship to symbolize the pride and vanity of the world, and the iceberg to resemble fate, and immanent death. He continues with lines that say how the people were so ignorant to not realize that one day in the future their downfall would come. He ends the poem with the final stanza, in which he writes how one day, the "Spinner of the Years" (XI 1) or rather, the one who controls all things and time, decided that it was the moment in which "two hemispheres" (XI 3) would collide; those two hemispheres being that of pride, and that of fate. Thomas Hardy's message is brought across and finalized in this final stanza, the fact that fate does have an effect on the human lives, and pride comes before the fall.
Thomas Hardy further continues to expose his theme by several different devices. Throughout the poem, he personifies the Titanic ship, and relates to it as "she". This only additionally adds to the idea that the ship symbolizes the pride of man during this time period, and the overconfidence they had in their technology. Continually, he uses an ironic tone during several stanzas of the poem, as if almost to mock the downfall that fate brought to man. During the fifth stanza, he asks an ironic question, and in the eighth stanza, he states that as the ship grew, so did the iceberg that would take it down one day. Being a poem separate from Hardy's typical structures, he decided to take it as far as he could. He breaks the poem into divided stanzas, each with only a short amount of content. Yet this it is stop the reader, and allow him to think and review what he has read. It is almost as if Thomas Hardy wanted to emphasize each and every small point he made throughout this poem, a majority of them being that being prideful only brings about a great downfall. His mockery of the world's arrogance continues throughout, as he reminds the reader of all the precious jewels and expensive valuables that are now left at the bottom of the ocean, further showing his disgust for pride. Hardy's theme of arrogance before failure can best be exemplified through this poem, and the fact that fate controls the lives of all.