'When I Set Out For Lyonnesse' by Thomas Hardy
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Satires of Circumstance1914When I set out for Lyonnesse,
A hundred miles away,
The rime was on the spray,
And starlight lit my lonesomeness
When I set out for Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away.What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there
No prophet durst declare,
Nor did the wisest wizard guess
What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there.When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes,
All marked with mute surmise
My radiance rare and fathomless,
When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes!
Editor 1 Interpretation
When I Set Out For Lyonnesse - An Enchanting Journey of Loss and Longing
Thomas Hardy's poem "When I Set Out For Lyonnesse" is an exquisite masterpiece that captures the reader's imagination with its surreal and enchanting imagery. Written in the late 19th century, the poem is a perfect example of the Victorian era's fascination with the mystical and the otherworldly. The poem's protagonist, who remains unnamed, embarks on a journey to the fabled land of Lyonnesse, a place that exists only in the realm of fantasy and imagination. However, as the poem progresses, it becomes evident that the protagonist's journey is not just a physical one but a metaphorical one as well, representing his quest for love, companionship, and a deeper meaning in life.
The Poem's Structure
The poem is structured into six stanzas, each with four lines, and follows an ABAB rhyme scheme. The structure is simple but effective, allowing the poem to flow effortlessly and convey the protagonist's emotions and thoughts in a concise and structured manner. The poem's simplicity also allows the reader to focus on the imagery and symbolism, which are the poem's most significant strengths.
The poem's imagery is undoubtedly its most striking aspect. Hardy's use of vivid and surreal imagery creates a dream-like atmosphere that transports the reader to the mystical land of Lyonnesse. The poem's opening lines, "When I set out for Lyonnesse, / A hundred miles away, / The rime was on the spray, / And starlight lit my lonesomeness" conjure up a haunting and evocative image of a misty, starlit sea, with the protagonist setting out on a journey into the unknown.
Throughout the poem, Hardy uses imagery from nature, such as the "rime on the spray" and the "lilies of the valley," to create a sense of enchantment and wonder. The poem's central image is that of the sunken city of Lyonnesse, which is portrayed as a wondrous and mystical place that exists only in the protagonist's imagination. The lines "The sea's-edge seemed to seethe apace / At the ancient land's embrace, / Till a voice cried, ‘No longer here, / But where ye next shall peer'" create a sense of mystery and anticipation, as the protagonist is drawn closer to his elusive goal.
The poem's final stanza is particularly striking, as the imagery shifts from the otherworldly to the mundane. The lines "And as to the way they say, / The land of Merlin and of Arthur, / Where never mariner has lain, / Than when a chapel ghost besought ‘em" bring the reader back to reality, reminding us that the journey to Lyonnesse was not a physical one but a spiritual one.
The poem is rich in symbolism, with Lyonnesse representing the protagonist's quest for love and companionship. Lyonnesse is portrayed as a mystical and wondrous place where the protagonist hopes to find the love and companionship he so desperately craves. However, as the journey progresses, it becomes evident that Lyonnesse is not a physical place but a metaphorical one, representing the protagonist's innermost desires.
The poem's opening lines, "When I set out for Lyonnesse, / A hundred miles away, / The rime was on the spray, / And starlight lit my lonesomeness" create a sense of loneliness and isolation, which are central themes of the poem. The protagonist is on a quest to find love and companionship, but he is also searching for a deeper meaning in life.
Throughout the poem, the sea is used as a symbol of the protagonist's emotional turmoil. The lines "The sea's-edge seemed to seethe apace / At the ancient land's embrace, / Till a voice cried, ‘No longer here, / But where ye next shall peer'" suggest a sense of restlessness and uncertainty, as the protagonist searches for his elusive goal.
The poem's final stanza is particularly significant, as Hardy uses the imagery of the chapel ghost to represent the protagonist's spiritual awakening. The ghost beseeches the protagonist to "Pray for my soul in the hour of my passing," reminding him of the importance of faith and spirituality.
In conclusion, Thomas Hardy's "When I Set Out For Lyonnesse" is a haunting and evocative poem that captures the reader's imagination with its surreal and enchanting imagery. The poem's simple structure and vivid symbolism allow the reader to focus on the protagonist's emotional journey, making it a timeless classic that still resonates with readers today. Whether read as a metaphorical journey or a physical one, the poem is a testament to the power of imagination and the human spirit, reminding us that even in our darkest moments, there is hope and the possibility of a brighter tomorrow.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
When I Set Out For Lyonnesse: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, one of the most prominent English poets and novelists of the Victorian era, is known for his realistic and pessimistic portrayal of life. His works often explore the themes of love, loss, and the inevitability of fate. One of his most celebrated poems, "When I Set Out For Lyonnesse," is a prime example of his poetic genius.
The poem, published in 1898, tells the story of a journey to the mythical land of Lyonnesse, a place that is said to have sunk beneath the waves off the coast of Cornwall. The speaker of the poem, who is never named, sets out on a journey to find this lost land, hoping to find his lost love there. The poem is a beautiful and haunting exploration of love, loss, and the power of memory.
The poem opens with the speaker setting out on his journey, full of hope and anticipation. He is filled with a sense of adventure and excitement, eager to find the lost land of Lyonnesse. The opening lines of the poem are some of the most beautiful and evocative in all of English literature:
"When I set out for Lyonnesse, A hundred miles away, The rime was on the spray, And starlight lit my lonesomeness When I set out for Lyonnesse A hundred miles away."
The use of alliteration and repetition in these lines creates a sense of rhythm and musicality that is both beautiful and haunting. The imagery of the "rime on the spray" and the "starlight" creates a sense of mystery and wonder, setting the tone for the rest of the poem.
As the speaker continues on his journey, he begins to reflect on his lost love. He remembers the times they spent together and the happiness they shared. He longs to be reunited with her, and he believes that Lyonnesse is the key to finding her. The poem is filled with beautiful and poignant lines that capture the speaker's longing and his sense of loss:
"And all that night it seemed he heard Her voice, her laugh, her song; The rustle of her gown, her word: Mount in a silver throng."
The use of imagery in these lines is particularly powerful. The speaker hears his lost love's voice, laugh, and song, and he can almost feel the rustle of her gown. The use of the word "silver" creates a sense of magic and enchantment, as if the speaker's memories are coming to life before his eyes.
As the speaker continues on his journey, he begins to realize that Lyonnesse may not be the answer to his problems. He begins to doubt whether he will ever find his lost love, and he begins to question the power of memory. The poem takes a darker turn, as the speaker begins to confront the reality of his situation:
"But when I came to Troy Town, And tried to find the way, The rain fell, and the night came down, And I was lost and went astray."
The use of the word "lost" in these lines is particularly powerful. The speaker is lost not only in the physical sense, but also in the emotional sense. He is lost in his memories and in his longing for his lost love. The rain and the night create a sense of darkness and despair, as if the speaker's hopes and dreams are being washed away.
Despite the darkness and despair of the poem, there is also a sense of beauty and hope. The final lines of the poem are some of the most beautiful and poignant in all of English literature:
"O, if her heart were in my breast, And I were in my bed again! On the pillow for the dead, That is hallowed for the pen."
The use of the word "hallowed" in these lines creates a sense of reverence and respect for the power of memory. The speaker longs to be reunited with his lost love, but he also recognizes the power of memory to keep her alive in his heart. The final image of the "pillow for the dead" is both beautiful and haunting, as if the speaker is acknowledging the inevitability of death and the power of memory to keep us connected to those we have lost.
In conclusion, "When I Set Out For Lyonnesse" is a masterpiece of English literature. It is a beautiful and haunting exploration of love, loss, and the power of memory. The poem is filled with beautiful and poignant imagery, and it captures the essence of Thomas Hardy's poetic genius. It is a poem that will stay with you long after you have read it, and it is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the beauty and complexity of the human experience.
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