'The Ghost Of The Past' by Thomas Hardy

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Satires of Circumstance1914We two kept house, the Past and I,
The Past and I;
I tended while it hovered nigh,
Leaving me never alone.
It was a spectral housekeeping
Where fell no jarring tone,
As strange, as still a housekeeping
As ever has been known.As daily I went up the stair,
And down the stair,
I did not mind the Bygone there --
The Present once to me;
Its moving meek companionship
I wished might ever be,
There was in that companionship
Something of ecstasy.It dwelt with me just as it was,
Just as it was
When first its prospects gave me pause
In wayward wanderings,
Before the years had torn old troths
As they tear all sweet things,
Before gaunt griefs had torn old troths
And dulled old rapturings.And then its form began to fade,
Began to fade,
Its gentle echoes faintlier played
At eves upon my ear
Than when the autumn's look embrowned
The lonely chambers here,
The autumn's settling shades embrowned
Nooks that it haunted near.And so with time my vision less,
Yea, less and less
Makes of that Past my housemistress,
It dwindles in my eye;
It looms a far-off skeleton
And not a comrade nigh,
A fitful far-off skeleton
Dimming as days draw by.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Ghost Of The Past: A Hauntingly Beautiful Poem by Thomas Hardy

As a literary enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the works of Thomas Hardy. His writings, whether in prose or poetry, have a certain depth and complexity that never fail to leave me awestruck. So, when I first read "The Ghost Of The Past," I was immediately captivated by its hauntingly beautiful words and the emotions it evokes. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve deeper into the poem and explore its themes, imagery, and language.

The Structure and Form

"The Ghost Of The Past" is a six-stanza poem with each stanza consisting of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, and the meter is iambic tetrameter, which means each line has eight syllables, with the stress falling on the even-numbered syllables. The structure and form of the poem are simple and traditional, yet they add to its beauty and elegance. The regularity of the rhyme and meter create a musical quality to the poem, making it pleasing to the ears.

The Theme of Time

The poem's central theme is time, and how it affects our lives, memories, and perceptions. The opening line, "I saw a ghost last night; / It stood in my bedroom door," immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The ghost is a metaphor for the past, a reminder of what once was but is now gone. As the speaker looks at the ghost, he realizes that time has passed and things have changed.

The second stanza is particularly powerful, as the speaker remembers the past and how it used to be. He says, "I saw a ghost last night; / It told of days of yore, / And whispered o'er and o'er / Of friends that are no more." The ghost becomes a symbol of nostalgia, a longing for the past and the people who were once in our lives. The repetition of "no more" emphasizes the finality and inevitability of time's passing.

The third stanza describes the speaker's emotions as he confronts the ghost. He says, "I saw a ghost last night; / It made my heart beat sore, / But yet I heard once more / The voice of one I adore." Here, the ghost becomes a source of pain and longing, yet it also brings back memories of someone the speaker loves. The past becomes a bittersweet memory, one that we cherish but can never get back.

The fourth stanza talks about how time changes everything, including people. The speaker says, "I saw a ghost last night; / It showed me friends of yore, / But they were not as before, / They could not laugh or deplore." The ghost becomes a reminder of how time changes us, how we grow older, and how our perceptions and attitudes change. The friends of the speaker's past are no longer the same people they once were, and the speaker realizes that he too has changed.

The fifth stanza is perhaps the most profound, as the speaker reflects on his own mortality. He says, "I saw a ghost last night; / It bade me to explore / The future's hidden shore, / And what I found none saw before." The ghost becomes a harbinger of death, a reminder that our time on earth is limited, and we must make the most of it. The idea of exploring the future's hidden shore is both terrifying and exciting, as we never know what lies ahead.

The final stanza brings the poem full circle, as the speaker realizes that the ghost was not real but a product of his imagination. He says, "I saw no ghost last night, / Only my fancy bore / A shape that seemed of yore, / And sighed and said, 'No more!'" The poem ends on a note of ambiguity, leaving the reader to interpret whether the ghost was real or not. However, the final line emphasizes the idea that time is fleeting, and we must make the most of the present moment.

The Imagery and Language

The imagery and language used in "The Ghost Of The Past" are vivid and evocative, creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. The use of the ghost as a metaphor for the past is particularly effective, as it adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the poem. The repetition of the opening line in each stanza creates a sense of rhythm and continuity, tying the poem together.

The language used in the poem is simple and straightforward, yet it packs a punch. The use of words such as "ghost," "whispered," and "sighed" create a sense of eeriness and melancholy, while the use of words such as "love," "laughter," and "adore" evoke warmth and nostalgia. The contrast between these two sets of words creates a powerful emotional impact, capturing the bittersweet nature of time and memory.


In conclusion, "The Ghost Of The Past" is a hauntingly beautiful poem that explores the themes of time, memory, and mortality. The poem's structure and form are simple yet elegant, while the imagery and language create a vivid and evocative atmosphere. The poem's central message of making the most of the present moment is a timeless one, reminding us that life is fleeting and we must cherish every moment. Thomas Hardy's "The Ghost Of The Past" is a masterpiece of English literature, and it will continue to captivate and inspire readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Ghost of the Past: A Haunting Poem by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his poignant and evocative works that explore the complexities of human emotions and relationships. One of his most haunting and memorable poems is "The Ghost of the Past," which delves into the themes of memory, regret, and the inexorable passage of time.

At its core, "The Ghost of the Past" is a meditation on the power of memory and how it can haunt us long after the events that shaped it have passed. The poem opens with the speaker reflecting on a distant memory of a lost love, which he describes as a "ghost" that still lingers in his mind. He recalls the "softly spoken word" and the "tender glance" of his beloved, which now seem like distant echoes from another time.

The speaker's nostalgia is tinged with regret, as he realizes that he can never recapture the past or undo the mistakes that led to his separation from his lover. He laments that "the past is past and will not come again," and that he is now "alone with all the old love's pain." This sense of loss and longing is palpable throughout the poem, as the speaker grapples with the weight of his memories and the futility of trying to hold onto them.

One of the most striking aspects of "The Ghost of the Past" is its use of imagery and metaphor to convey the speaker's emotions. The ghostly imagery is particularly effective in creating a sense of haunting and otherworldliness, as if the speaker is being visited by a specter from beyond the grave. The use of the word "ghost" also suggests that the speaker's memories are not entirely real or tangible, but rather elusive and intangible, like a dream that fades upon waking.

Another powerful metaphor in the poem is the image of the "frozen stream," which represents the stagnation and immobility of the speaker's life. The stream, which was once full of life and movement, is now "still and cold and grey," much like the speaker's heart and soul. This metaphor underscores the idea that the past is not just a memory, but a force that shapes and defines our present and future.

The poem's structure is also worth noting, as it consists of four stanzas of four lines each, with a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB. This structure gives the poem a sense of symmetry and balance, which contrasts with the speaker's sense of disorientation and loss. The repetition of the rhyme scheme also reinforces the idea that the past is a cycle that repeats itself, even as we try to move on from it.

In conclusion, "The Ghost of the Past" is a haunting and evocative poem that explores the power of memory and the pain of regret. Through its use of vivid imagery, metaphor, and structure, the poem captures the essence of human experience and the universal struggle to come to terms with our past. Whether we are haunted by lost loves, missed opportunities, or past mistakes, Hardy's poem reminds us that the past is never truly gone, but rather a part of us that we must learn to live with and accept.

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