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Thomas Hardy
represents nature as being an omnipotent and omnipresent force, using it as a
means to provide comfort for himself and to express his inner feelings of guilt
and a sense of loss over the death of his wife Emma. Hardy’s poetry can be
analysed through the lens of eco-criticism, which “takes as its subject the interconnections between nature and culture”
(CA).  Barry Commoner’s First Law of
Ecology states that “everything is
connected to everything else” (CA). This suggests that Emma’s life and
nature were entwined with one another, allowing Hardy to connect with her
through nature after her death as she was once part of it – the law too
suggests that the grieving process that Hardy is going through is universally
felt.  Although Hardy’s grieving was long
following Emma’s passing he contrasted his own temporary sorrows with the
permanence of nature – Green Studies explores this by stating that “place matters as much as time, geography as
much as history, being as much as becoming, permanence as much as change”
(CA). As a result of nature’s omnipotence and omnipresence it was there
throughout his relationship with Emma and he can use it to reconnect with her,
relive his memories with her and use it to come to terms of her passing as part
of nature’s cycle as death is a part of nature in which all humans will
inevitably face.

‘Rain on a Grave’, written around two
months after the death of Emma, focuses on Hardy’s mourning of Emma’s death,
and his gradual coming to terms with it. The rain hitting the grave can be
interpreted in a variety of ways. Rain could be a metaphor for the tears cried
by Hardy over his deceased wife’s grave, an appropriate comparison which
reflects his raw emotions associated with his mourning after her passing.
Alternatively, as rain is physically hitting the grave – shown through the
metaphor “arrows of rain” – it could
suggest how Hardy was reflecting on the indifference of nature to the suffering
of humans; this is further exemplified by the personification of the clouds as
having “spout upon her… in ruthless
distain”. Giving these characters to nature demonstrates how Hardy believed
nature had a cruel and cold side, unsympathetic to the hardships humans suffer.
Though perhaps it is not nature that is vindictive and perhaps it is God, as a
way of punishing Hardy for his ill-treatment of Emma during their relationship.
The first stanza possesses a negative lexical field, using terms such as “distain”, “pain” and “dishonour”,
which reflects the emotional turmoil Hardy was feeling following the death of
Emma. As the poem progresses Hardy begins to come to terms with her death, with
a more positive lexical field being employed in the final stanza – “sweet”, “loved” and “pleasure”.
Over time nature has improved his emotions, helping him to come to terms with
life without Emma. Emma becomes part of nature, as new life appears from Emma’s
grave – her memory will continue through nature’s presence, linking to
Commoner’s aforementioned quotation. Her body becomes part of the landscape in
nature’s eternal cycle of life, with “sweet
blades from her mound”, and Hardy compares the daises growing as “stars on the ground”.  The stars can be interpreted as a metaphor of
Emma herself as an important guiding light for Hardy towards his recovery, and
the regeneration of life nature offers provides him comfort.

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‘Under the Waterfall’ demonstrates Hardy’s everlasting
love for Emma through the beauty and permanence of the surroundings, although
not part of the 1912/1913 collection it is a fitting elegy to it. Visually the
poem takes the flowing structure of a waterfall, the enjambment of lines
representing the continuous flow of water and too the continuing nature of
their love. Anthropomorphism of the waterfall as having a “hollow boiling voice” which has “spoken since hills were turfless peaks” demonstrates the
omnipotence of nature, supporting the idea of deep ecology as nature has been
the eternal force which was present before humans, and will continue to be
after. This representation of nature by Hardy could be used to provide comfort
to himself and his temporary emotions over Emma in comparison to the eternal,
powerful earth of which humans are its passing guests. Eco-criticism is evident
from Hardy’s description of “a leaf-wove
awning of green”, creating a strong positive ambience. It can be argued
that Hardy was guilty of using pastoral, idealizing nature and creating a
post-card picture perfect image of his memories with Emma. Perhaps Hardy was
using the protection of the awning of nature as a means of escaping his guilt
over his treatment of her, reconstructing the relationship as perfect in his
mind to provide ease for himself. Written in speech marks, the speaker recalls
how her and her lover drank together from a glass, but it fell into the
waterfall – “it slipped, and sank, and was
beyond recall”. Much like how they were unable to recapture the glass from
the water, Hardy was unable to recapture his love from Emma after her death;
sibilance from “slipped, and sank”
puts emphasis on the distain Hardy felt after losing Emma. Though, nature has
preserved the “chalice” in time by
keeping it “intact” allowing this
memory and their love to be protected through time.

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