Examining The Recollection Of The Self Unseeing English Literature Essay

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In this light, the construction of memory is imperative: 'The poet's mind is a receptacle for [...] storing up [...] feelings, […] images which remain there until all particles [...] can unite.' The poem's inclusion in Poems of the Past and Present is indicative of its thematic concerns with time. It accounts for the past insomuch as it is a childhood memory being remembered as well as the present as the act of recollection is pivotal in the poem. The inventive 'unseeing' in the title is representative of memory and characteristic of Hardy's poetry: 'He had trouble with the meaning of [...] words, but [...] got no help from the dictionary.' It allows the older self to view his present surroundings and reinvent the past, with the speaker in the room as he does so;: 'She sat here in her chair.' This means meaning the past is evoked as solidly as the physical foundations of the house itself. This is intensified when the memories are not only recollected, but visible like the 'footworn' floor, holding the physical imprints of the family's past: '[it represents] anterior pastness and retrieval.' This diction serves to emphasise the sense of time: 'The memories are so palpable [...] that they [...] take on the [...] physical identity of actual presences.'

This idea is characteristic of Hardy's work. 'The Going' is an expression of past regrets that interfere with the speaker's present: 'All's past amend/Unchangeable. It must go.' The focus of both poems is intense emotion evoking a memory so vivid it borders on hallucinogenic: 'seeing the past as a structure beneath the tracings of memory.' This is evident in the detail of the first two stanzas: 'He who played stood there,' for example, conjures a clear image of the scene. Furthermore, as the speaker confronts the house, the adverbs 'Here and 'There' present a view of the empty rooms, and the tragedy of the speaker's reality: he exists beyond the life that once filled the house. More haunting are the short lines and fluid 'ABAB' rhyme scheme, creating a song-like tone and rhythm, the metrical pattern itself 'contracting and expanding' like musical tones. Thus, the memories are not only visual but auditory, as though he can hear them in the vacant house, with the sound of the music transferred to the formal qualities of the poem.

This notion of memories manifested within the formal qualities is continued with the adverb 'Here,' creating a sense of the past imposing on the present, which is enhanced by the sudden movements between tenses: 'Here is the ancient floor, and 'Here was the former door,' for example. Thus, the past and present are indistinguishable, reinforced in the line, 'Where the dead feet walked in,' with its combination of tenses. This syntactical irregularity is characteristic of Hardy's work, and has led to criticism of his '"awkwardness" of style, syntax and diction.' However, it is the only line which does not open with a trochee, and this intentional irregular arrangement of the monosyllables creates an emphasis on 'dead feet.' This ensures that whilst the speaker's parents may be dead, they remain present, both in the markings on the 'footworn' floor as well as in the auditory effects. These syntactical ambiguities with complex undertones heighten with the line, 'smiling into the fire. The fire produces a glow that is the physical manifestation of the internal feelings of contentment: 'nostalgia and regret with a recreation of [...] delight [...] is [...] characteristic of [...] Hardy's poetry.' Conversely, 'unseeing' means the scene is reviewed. Thus, smiling into the fire is a suggestion of not only staring blankly ('looking away'but also a smile destroyed by the flames. The fire is therefore an encapsulated symbol of the warmth of the home but also the shattering of such joy. In conjunction with the line 'here was the former door,' revealing alteration to the house's physical features since childhood, the fire is a motif of the 'destructiveness of time.'

These complications continue with the word 'emblazoned.' Up until this point, the diction and rhythm combined to create a childlike tone. 'Emblazoned' is markedly different, especially when compared with the preceding line, 'Childlike I danced in a dream, the alliteration emulating the tone of a child. However, this change foregrounds the intricacies of the final two lines, 'Everything glowed with a gleam;/Yet we were looking away! exemplifying Hardy's 'double vision:' 'A poem with 'opposed point[s] of view with no closing resolution.' The first interpretation, therefore, is regret at unacknowledged happiness. This idea is present in 'During Wind and Rain,' with the people in the poem 'blithely breakfasting.' 'Blithely' refers to a lack of thought or regard, an idea met with the line 'Yet we were looking away' in 'The Self-Unseeing.' Both poems express a failure to acknowledge important moments. It is the adult speaker who values the 'gleam' and recognises what the child has failed to appreciate, a notion made all the more tragic with the influence of rhythm. The preceding lines present 'ecstatic rhythm rises' on the words 'danced,' and 'emblazoned,' which is reversed on the final line, bringing melancholy focus to it. This focus is turned externally with the pronoun 'we,' referring not only to the speaker but humankind as a whole: 'we' are all accusable of 'looking away,' and losing experiences. This theme runs throughout Hardy's work: 'what begins a [...] private hurt ends in the common wound of experience,' with both 'During Wind and Rain' and 'The Self-Unseeing' highlighting the negativity of the human condition: 'It is the nature of the self that Hardy describes to have been unseeing.'

Conversely, the poem can be interpreted as jubilation of the child's failure to comprehend his joy. The focus of the poem is understanding and containing these emotions, a notion present in 'The Voice,' where the speaker laments on the dissipation of experience: 'Woman much missed, now you call to me [...] saying that now you are not as you were/when you changed from the one who was all to me.' However, whilst the intrusion of the past onto the present and the lamentation for the past is clear, it is controlled in much the same way as 'The Self-Unseeing.' The grief here is for the disappearance of a wholly unconscious state of mind: 'He shows his awareness that the joy experienced and the unconscious of it are inescapable.' Only now, in a state of 'unseeing' can the speaker appreciate his 'blessings,' by understanding that these moments are forever stored in the memory. The poem is the physical manifestation of this. The three stanzas representing the speaker, mother and father has a similar effect to the house with its footworn floors and empty rooms; the moment of joy is evoked solidly and therefore remains irrevocable. The ironic twist, therefore, is that the awareness of happiness and the awareness of deprivation are inextricably linked.