'The Sun On The Bookcase' by Thomas Hardy

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Satires of Circumstance1914Once more the cauldron of the sunSmears the bookcase with winy red,And here my page is, and there my bed,And the apple-tree shadows travel along.Soon their intangible track will be run,And dusk grow strongAnd they have fled.Yes: now the boiling ball is gone,And I have wasted another day....But wasted--wasted, do I say?Is it a waste to have imagined oneBeyond the hills there, who, anon,My great deeds done,Will be mine alway?

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Sun On The Bookcase by Thomas Hardy: A Literary Criticism

Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like you were standing in the same room as the author? That's exactly what Thomas Hardy's "The Sun On The Bookcase" does. This poem immerses you in the surroundings and emotions of the narrator, making it a truly unforgettable reading experience.


At its core, "The Sun On The Bookcase" is a simple poem. It describes a sunbeam shining on a bookcase, casting a shadow that resembles a ladder. The narrator then muses on the fact that this ladder leads nowhere and wonders if it's a symbol of their own unfulfilled ambitions.

On the surface, the poem seems to be a meditation on the nature of hope and disappointment. But as we'll see, there's much more going on beneath the surface.


Before we dive into the imagery and themes of the poem, let's take a quick look at its structure. "The Sun On The Bookcase" is a 12-line poem with an ABAB rhyme scheme. Each line is written in iambic pentameter, giving the poem a steady, rhythmic feel.

But what's most interesting about the poem's structure is its use of enjambment. Almost every line flows into the next, creating a sense of continuity that mirrors the unbroken sunbeam on the bookcase. This feeling of continuity is further reinforced by the repetition of the phrase "sunbeam" in the first and last lines.


Now, let's turn our attention to the imagery in the poem. The most obvious image is, of course, the sunbeam on the bookcase. Hardy's description of this beam is so vivid that you can almost feel its warmth and see its brightness. The shadow it casts is equally well-described, with its rungs resembling a ladder that leads upwards towards the ceiling.

But there are other images in the poem that are equally powerful. For example, Hardy writes that the "sunbeam flings / A ladder of light to the air." The use of the word "flings" suggests a sense of recklessness or abandon, as if the sunbeam is throwing caution to the wind and letting itself be carried away.

Similarly, the phrase "ladder of light" is an interesting one. On the one hand, it reinforces the idea that the shadow on the bookcase resembles a ladder. But on the other hand, it suggests that this ladder is made of something intangible and insubstantial - light. This further emphasizes the idea that the ladder leads nowhere and is ultimately meaningless.


So what is "The Sun On The Bookcase" really about? On one level, it's a poem about the disappointment of unfulfilled hopes and dreams. The narrator sees the ladder on the bookcase and wonders if it's a symbol of their own ambitions, which have led them nowhere.

But there's more to the poem than that. The final lines, which read "And Life's unalterable Tale / Is Death, and that there is no hale," suggest a deeper, more existential theme. The narrator seems to be grappling with the idea that life is ultimately meaningless, that all our struggles and aspirations are ultimately futile in the face of death.

This idea is reinforced by the imagery in the poem. The sunbeam, which at first seems so lively and full of energy, is ultimately impotent. It can't change the fact that the ladder leads nowhere, just as we can't change the fact that we will eventually die.


"The Sun On The Bookcase" is a deceptively simple poem that rewards close reading and analysis. Through its vivid imagery and carefully-crafted structure, it immerses us in the narrator's inner world and forces us to confront some of the most profound questions of human existence. If you haven't read this poem before, I highly recommend it - it's a true masterpiece of English literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Sun On The Bookcase: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his exceptional ability to capture the essence of human emotions and experiences in his works. His poem, The Sun On The Bookcase, is a perfect example of his mastery in the art of poetry. The poem is a beautiful representation of the passing of time and the fleeting nature of life. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the poem and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the sun's rays falling on the bookcase. The opening lines, "Once more the cauldron of the sun / Smears the bookcase with winy red," create a visual image of the sun's warmth and light spreading across the room. The use of the word "cauldron" is particularly interesting as it suggests a boiling or bubbling effect, which is a metaphor for the intensity of the sun's heat. The phrase "winy red" is also significant as it implies a sense of intoxication or drunkenness, which is a recurring theme in the poem.

The second stanza of the poem introduces the theme of time and its fleeting nature. The lines, "The sun, an orange skullcap crowned, / Descends into the evening cloud," suggest the passing of time as the sun sets and disappears into the clouds. The use of the word "skullcap" is also significant as it implies the inevitability of death and the transience of life.

The third stanza of the poem introduces the bookcase as a symbol of the past. The lines, "Its face forgotten, but its shadow falls / On the same page marked in the same way," suggest that the bookcase represents the memories of the past that are still present in the present. The use of the word "shadow" is also significant as it implies a sense of darkness or obscurity, which is a metaphor for the uncertainty of the past.

The fourth stanza of the poem introduces the theme of regret. The lines, "The page is one I sought once, / But all the while I had it curled / And petted in my palm, there burned / A fire that in me has dwindled." suggest that the speaker had once sought the page but had failed to appreciate its value. The use of the word "curled" is also significant as it implies a sense of neglect or disregard, which is a metaphor for the speaker's lack of appreciation for the past.

The fifth and final stanza of the poem introduces the theme of mortality. The lines, "And now the sun, in splendour set, / As if his daily task were done, / Flames on the windows of the room / As if to reach the dead beyond," suggest that the sun's setting represents the end of life and the flames on the windows represent the afterlife. The use of the word "dead" is also significant as it implies a sense of finality or closure, which is a metaphor for the end of life.

The structure of the poem is also significant. The poem is written in five stanzas, each with four lines. The use of quatrains creates a sense of symmetry and balance, which is a metaphor for the order and structure of life. The rhyme scheme of the poem is also significant. The poem follows an ABAB rhyme scheme, which creates a sense of repetition and continuity, which is a metaphor for the cyclical nature of life.

The poem also employs several literary devices. The use of metaphor is particularly significant. The sun is a metaphor for life, while the bookcase is a metaphor for the past. The use of personification is also significant. The sun is personified as a cauldron and an orange skullcap, while the bookcase is personified as having a face and a shadow. The use of imagery is also significant. The sun's rays, the bookcase, and the flames on the windows create vivid visual images that enhance the poem's themes and emotions.

In conclusion, The Sun On The Bookcase is a masterpiece of Thomas Hardy's poetry. The poem's themes of time, regret, and mortality are universal and timeless, while its structure and literary devices create a sense of symmetry and balance. The poem's vivid imagery and metaphors create a powerful emotional impact that resonates with readers long after they have finished reading it. The poem is a testament to Hardy's mastery of the art of poetry and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience.

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