'Last Words To A Dumb Friend' by Thomas Hardy
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Pet was never mourned as you,
Purrer of the spotless hue,
Plumy tail, and wistful gaze
While you humoured our queer ways,
Or outshrilled your morning call
Up the stairs and through the hall--
Foot suspended in its fall--
While, expectant, you would stand
Arched, to meet the stroking hand;
Till your way you chose to wend
Yonder, to your tragic end.Never another pet for me!
Let your place all vacant be;
Better blankness day by day
Than companion torn away.
Better bid his memory fade,
Better blot each mark he made,
Selfishly escape distress
By contrived forgetfulness,
Than preserve his prints to make
Every morn and eve an ache.From the chair whereon he sat
Sweep his fur, nor wince thereat;
Rake his little pathways out
Mid the bushes roundabout;
Smooth away his talons' mark
From the claw-worn pine-tree bark,
Where he climbed as dusk embrowned,
Waiting us who loitered round.Strange it is this speechless thing,
Subject to our mastering,
Subject for his life and food
To our gift, and time, and mood;
Timid pensioner of us Powers,
His existence ruled by ours,
Should - by crossing at a breath
Into safe and shielded death,
By the merely taking hence
Of his insignificance--
Loom as largened to the sense,
Shape as part, above man's will,
Of the Imperturbable.As a prisoner, flight debarred,
Exercising in a yard,
Still retain I, troubled, shaken,
Mean estate, by him forsaken;
And this home, which scarcely took
Impress from his little look,
By his faring to the Dim
Grows all eloquent of him.Housemate, I can think you still
Bounding to the window-sill,
Over which I vaguely see
Your small mound beneath the tree,
Showing in the autumn shade
That you moulder where you played.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Last Words To A Dumb Friend: A Masterpiece by Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy is one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century with his works widely recognized for their emotive power, lyrical beauty, and profound philosophical themes. One of his most poignant and moving pieces is "Last Words To A Dumb Friend," a poem that captures the deep sense of loss and grief that comes with the death of a close companion. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the meaning, symbolism, and literary devices used in this masterpiece, and how they contribute to the overall impact of the poem.
Background and Context
"Last Words To A Dumb Friend" was published in Hardy's collection of poems, Satires of Circumstance, in 1914. The poem is dedicated to his beloved dog, Wessex, who had recently died. The dog had been Hardy's constant companion for years, and his death had a profound impact on the poet. The poem is a reflection of Hardy's sorrow and grief over the loss of his friend, and it has become one of his most famous and beloved works.
The poem opens with an epigraph that sets the tone for what is to come: "Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul." These lines, taken from the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, suggest a sense of darkness and despair, but also resilience and determination. The poem then begins with Hardy addressing his deceased dog directly, saying "I knew that you would come one day / Unmoved and cold, but yet not slain / The same as ever to the eye / That looked at you and knew you nigh." This opening stanza sets the stage for the rest of the poem, which is a reflection on the nature of death and the bonds of friendship that transcend it.
The next stanza is a stark reminder of the finality of death: "The same as ever, no decay / Of muscle, bone, or sinew there / The same reliance on the air / As held you round me on the lawn." Here, Hardy is acknowledging the physical reality of death, the fact that his friend's body is now lifeless and inert. However, he also seems to be suggesting that death has not destroyed the connection between them, that their bond still exists, even though his friend is no longer alive.
In the third stanza, Hardy reflects on the nature of his friendship with his dog: "We used to speak and think the same / And share our gusts of pettish mirth / Ere you grew silent in the earth." This is a powerful reminder of the intimacy and closeness that can exist between humans and animals, and the depth of emotion that can be felt between them. It also highlights the sense of loss that Hardy is feeling, as he realizes that he will no longer be able to share these moments with his friend.
The fourth stanza is perhaps the most emotive in the entire poem, as Hardy expresses his sorrow and despair over his friend's death: "But how shall I recall the tone / The zest that thrilled our every day, / Your keen responsive bark alone / Can tell me what you cannot say." Here, Hardy is acknowledging the limitations of language, and how it can never truly capture the depth of emotion that he is feeling. He is also expressing his sense of frustration and helplessness, as he realizes that he can never truly know what his friend was thinking or feeling.
In the final stanza, Hardy reflects on the nature of death itself, and the idea that it is a natural part of the cycle of life: "And so beside the Silent Sea / I wait the muffled oar; / No harm from Him can come to me / On ocean or on shore." Here, Hardy is expressing his belief in some sort of afterlife, and the idea that death is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new journey. He is also acknowledging that death is an inevitable part of life, and that we must all face it eventually.
Themes and Symbolism
"Last Words To A Dumb Friend" is a poem that is rich in symbolism and themes. One of the most prominent themes is the idea of death and its relationship to life. Hardy is grappling with the idea that death is a natural part of the cycle of life, and that we must all face it eventually. He is also expressing his belief in some sort of afterlife, and the idea that death is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new journey.
Another important theme is the nature of friendship, and the deep sense of connection that can exist between humans and animals. Hardy is reflecting on the intimacy and closeness that he shared with his dog, and the profound emotions that he felt towards him. He is also acknowledging the limitations of language, and how it can never truly capture the depth of emotion that he is feeling.
Symbolism is also a key element of the poem, particularly in the use of the sea as a metaphor for death. The idea of the "Silent Sea" represents the unknown and the unknowable, suggesting that death is a mystery that we can never truly understand. The sea also represents the idea of a journey, suggesting that death is not an end, but rather a beginning.
"Last Words To A Dumb Friend" is a poem that is rich in literary devices, particularly in its use of imagery and metaphor. The use of the sea as a metaphor for death is particularly effective, as it conjures up powerful images of the unknown and the unknowable. The use of the word "muffled" to describe the oar also suggests a sense of mystery and uncertainty.
Another effective literary device is the use of repetition, particularly in the phrase "the same as ever." This repetition reinforces the idea that death has not destroyed the connection between Hardy and his dog, and that their bond still exists, even though his friend is no longer alive. The repetition of the phrase "can tell me what you cannot say" also reinforces the limitations of language, and the idea that true emotion can never truly be captured in words.
"Last Words To A Dumb Friend" is a masterpiece of modern poetry, and a powerful reflection on the nature of death, friendship, and the limits of language. Through his use of imagery, metaphor, and repetition, Hardy has created a deeply emotive and moving work that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the full range of human emotion, and a reminder of the enduring bond that can exist between humans and animals.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Last Words to a Dumb Friend: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, is known for his melancholic and realistic portrayal of life. His poems are often characterized by their deep emotions, vivid imagery, and philosophical themes. Among his many works, "Last Words to a Dumb Friend" stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of human relationships and the inevitability of death.
The poem is a conversation between the speaker and his "dumb friend," a horse that has been his companion for many years. The speaker is bidding farewell to his friend, who is about to be put down. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a distinct tone and message.
The first stanza sets the scene and establishes the emotional tone of the poem. The speaker describes the setting as a "dull, dark dockyard day," which creates a sense of gloom and sadness. The speaker then addresses his friend, saying, "Good-bye, old horse, our work is done." This line is significant because it suggests that the horse has been a partner in the speaker's work, perhaps as a farm animal or a carriage horse. The use of the word "our" emphasizes the bond between the two and suggests that the speaker has a deep affection for his friend.
The second stanza is the heart of the poem, where the speaker reflects on the nature of life and death. He says, "All things that are born must die, / And I have felt, when some have died, / That I would gladly too." This line reveals the speaker's acceptance of death as a natural part of life. He acknowledges that death is inevitable and that he has experienced the pain of losing loved ones. The use of the word "gladly" is significant because it suggests that the speaker is ready to embrace death when his time comes. This sentiment is echoed in the next line, where he says, "For all men are grass, / And all their glory fades like flowers." This line is a reference to a biblical passage that compares human life to grass that withers and fades away. The speaker is reminding himself and his friend that life is fleeting and that death is a necessary part of the cycle of life.
The final stanza is a farewell to the horse, where the speaker expresses his gratitude and love for his friend. He says, "But you, dear brute, have been to me / What no one else could be." This line is significant because it suggests that the horse has been a source of comfort and companionship for the speaker. The use of the word "brute" is not meant to be derogatory but rather a term of endearment. The speaker then says, "And I will mourn you passing sore, / As if my own soul you bore." This line is a testament to the deep bond between the two and the pain that the speaker feels at the loss of his friend. The final line, "Good-bye, old horse, good-bye," is a simple but powerful farewell that captures the essence of the poem.
The poem is a meditation on the nature of life and death and the importance of human relationships. The speaker's acceptance of death and his gratitude for his friend's companionship are universal themes that resonate with readers of all ages. The use of vivid imagery and simple language makes the poem accessible and easy to understand, while the philosophical themes give it depth and meaning.
In conclusion, "Last Words to a Dumb Friend" is a masterpiece of Thomas Hardy that captures the essence of human relationships and the inevitability of death. The poem is a meditation on the nature of life and death and the importance of human connections. The use of vivid imagery and simple language makes the poem accessible and easy to understand, while the philosophical themes give it depth and meaning. It is a timeless work that continues to resonate with readers today and will continue to do so for generations to come.
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