'The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s' by Thomas Hardy

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The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s

They had long met o’ Zundays—her true love and she—
And at junketings, maypoles, and flings;
But she bode wi’ a thirtover uncle, and he
Swore by noon and by night that her goodman should be
Naibor Sweatley—a gaffer oft weak at the knee
From taking o’ sommat more cheerful than tea—
Who tranted, and moved people’s things.

She cried, “O pray pity me!” Nought would he hear;
Then with wild rainy eyes she obeyed,
She chid when her Love was for clinking off wi’ her.
The pa’son was told, as the season drew near
To throw over pu’pit the names of the peäir
As fitting one flesh to be made.

The wedding-day dawned and the morning drew on;
The couple stood bridegroom and bride;
The evening was passed, and when midnight had gone
The folks horned out, “God save the King,” and anon
The two home-along gloomily hied.

The lover Tim Tankens mourned heart-sick and drear
To be thus of his darling deprived:
He roamed in the dark ath’art field, mound, and mere,
And, a’most without knowing it, found himself near
The house of the tranter, and now of his Dear,
Where the lantern-light showed ’em arrived.

The bride sought her cham’er so calm and so pale
That a Northern had thought her resigned;
But to eyes that had seen her in tide-times of weal,
Like the white cloud o’ smoke, the red battlefield’s vail,
That look spak’ of havoc behind.

The bridegroom yet laitered a beaker to drain,
Then reeled to the linhay for more,
When the candle-snoff kindled some chaff from his grain—
Flames spread, and red vlankers, wi’ might and wi’ main,
And round beams, thatch, and chimley-tun roar.

Young Tim away yond, rafted up by the light,
Through brimble and underwood tears,
Till he comes to the orchet, when crooping thereright
In the lewth of a codlin-tree, bivering wi’ fright,
Wi’ on’y her night-rail to screen her from sight,
His lonesome young Barbree appears.

Her cwold little figure half-naked he views
Played about by the frolicsome breeze,
Her light-tripping totties, her ten little tooes,
All bare and besprinkled wi’ Fall’s chilly dews,
While her great gallied eyes, through her hair hanging loose,
Sheened as stars through a tardle o’ trees.

She eyed en; and, as when a weir-hatch is drawn,
Her tears, penned by terror afore,
With a rushing of sobs in a shower were strawn,
Till her power to pour ’em seemed wasted and gone
From the heft o’ misfortune she bore.

“O Tim, my own Tim I must call ’ee—I will!
All the world ha’ turned round on me so!
Can you help her who loved ’ee, though acting so ill?
Can you pity her misery—feel for her still?
When worse than her body so quivering and chill
Is her heart in its winter o’ woe!

“I think I mid almost ha’ borne it,” she said,
“Had my griefs one by one come to hand;
But O, to be slave to thik husbird for bread,
And then, upon top o’ that, driven to wed,
And then, upon top o’ that, burnt out o’ bed,
Is more than my nater can stand!”

Tim’s soul like a lion ’ithin en outsprung—
(Tim had a great soul when his feelings were wrung)—
“Feel for ’ee, dear Barbree?” he cried;
And his warm working-jacket about her he flung,
Made a back, horsed her up, till behind him she clung
Like a chiel on a gipsy, her figure uphung
By the sleeves that around her he tied.

Over piggeries, and mixens, and apples, and hay,
They lumpered straight into the night;
And finding bylong where a halter-path lay,
At dawn reached Tim’s house, on’y seen on their way
By a naibor or two who were up wi’ the day;
But they gathered no clue to the sight.

Then tender Tim Tankens he searched here and there
For some garment to clothe her fair skin;
But though he had breeches and waistcoats to spare,
He had nothing quite seemly for Barbree to wear,
Who, half shrammed to death, stood and cried on a chair
At the caddle she found herself in.

There was one thing to do, and that one thing he did,
He lent her some clouts of his own,
And she took ’em perforce; and while in ’em she slid,
Tim turned to the winder, as modesty bid,
Thinking, “O that the picter my duty keeps hid
To the sight o’ my eyes mid be shown!”

In the tallet he stowed her; there huddied she lay,
Shortening sleeves, legs, and tails to her limbs;
But most o’ the time in a mortal bad way,
Well knowing that there’d be the divel to pay
If ’twere found that, instead o’ the elements’ prey,
She was living in lodgings at Tim’s.

“Where’s the tranter?” said men and boys; “where can er be?”
“Where’s the tranter?” said Barbree alone.
“Where on e’th is the tranter?” said everybod-y:
They sifted the dust of his perished roof-tree,
And all they could find was a bone.

Then the uncle cried, “Lord, pray have mercy on me!”
And in terror began to repent.
But before ’twas complete, and till sure she was free,
Barbree drew up her loft-ladder, tight turned her key—
Tim bringing up breakfast and dinner and tea—
Till the news of her hiding got vent.

Then followed the custom-kept rout, shout, and flare
Of a skimmington-ride through the naiborhood, ere
Folk had proof o’ wold Sweatley’s decay.
Whereupon decent people all stood in a stare,
Saying Tim and his lodger should risk it, and pair:
So he took her to church. An’ some laughing lads there
Cried to Tim, “After Sweatley!” She said, “I declare
I stand as a maiden to-day!”

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s: An Analysis of Thomas Hardy’s Poem

What happens when a community is rocked by a tragedy? How do people respond to it? These are the questions that Thomas Hardy explores in his poem, The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s. Set in the English countryside, the poem tells the story of a fire that destroys a farmer’s barn and kills his livestock. But this is not just a story about a fire; it is a story about the human condition and the way we react when faced with adversity.

The Setting

Before we dive into the poem itself, it’s important to understand the setting. The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s takes place in a small village in rural England. The poem is written in the dialect of the locals, which adds an extra layer of authenticity to the setting. We can imagine the rolling hills, the green pastures, and the small cottages that dot the landscape. This setting is important because it sets the stage for the tragedy that is about to unfold.

The Plot

The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s is a narrative poem, which means that it tells a story. The story here is relatively simple: there is a fire at Tranter Sweatley’s farm that destroys his barn and kills his livestock. But the power of the poem lies in the way Hardy tells this story. He gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people affected by the fire and their reactions to it.

We see the villagers rushing to the scene, trying to put out the fire. We see Tranter Sweatley himself, trying to save his animals even as the barn burns down around him. We see the children of the village, fascinated by the spectacle of the fire.

But it’s not just the immediate aftermath of the fire that Hardy focuses on. He also shows us how the community reacts in the days and weeks that follow. People come to offer their sympathies to Tranter Sweatley, bringing him food and drink. They talk about the fire and speculate about its cause. And in the end, they move on, returning to their daily lives.

The Themes

The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s touches on a number of themes that are common in Hardy’s work. One of the most prominent themes is the idea of fate. Hardy was a fatalist, meaning that he believed that people’s lives were predetermined and that they had little control over their own destinies. This idea is present in the poem in the way that the fire seems almost inevitable. It’s as if the fire was always going to happen, and there was nothing anyone could do to prevent it.

Another theme that runs through the poem is the idea of the natural world. Hardy was a great lover of nature, and he often used it as a backdrop for his stories. In The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s, we see the destructive power of nature in the form of the fire. But we also see the way that nature can bring people together. The villagers all come together to try to put out the fire, and they are united in their grief afterwards.

The Structure

The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s is written in four-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB. This structure gives the poem a sense of rhythm and makes it easy to read. But the real power of the poem lies in the way that Hardy uses language.

Hardy was a master of the English language, and his poetry is full of vivid imagery and powerful metaphors. In The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s, he uses language to create a sense of atmosphere. We can almost feel the heat of the fire and smell the smoke. We can hear the crackling of the flames and the shouts of the villagers.

The Interpretation

So what does The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s mean? Like most great works of literature, there is no one answer to this question. The poem can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on the reader’s perspective.

One possible interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the human condition. It shows us how people react in the face of tragedy, and how they come together to support each other. But it also shows us the way that life goes on, even after a devastating event.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a reflection on the power of nature. It shows us the destructive power of fire, but also the way that nature can bring people together. It’s a reminder that we are all connected to the natural world, and that we must respect its power.


In conclusion, The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s is a powerful poem that explores some of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience. It’s a story about tragedy, community, and the power of nature. But it’s also a reminder that life goes on, even after the worst has happened. Whether you’re a fan of poetry or just looking for a good read, The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s is a poem that is well worth your time.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s: A Classic Poem by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his vivid and realistic portrayal of rural life in his works. One of his most famous poems, The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s, is a perfect example of his ability to capture the essence of rural life and the emotions of its inhabitants.

The poem tells the story of a fire that breaks out in the small village of Casterbridge, and the efforts of the villagers to put it out. The fire starts at Tranter Sweatley’s, a local farmer’s house, and quickly spreads to the neighboring houses. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which describes a different stage of the fire.

The first part of the poem sets the scene and introduces the reader to the village of Casterbridge. Hardy describes the village as a peaceful and idyllic place, where the villagers lead simple lives. However, this peace is shattered when the fire breaks out at Tranter Sweatley’s. The poet uses vivid imagery to describe the fire, comparing it to a “fiery dragon” that is “breathing flames”. This creates a sense of urgency and danger, and the reader can almost feel the heat of the fire.

The second part of the poem describes the efforts of the villagers to put out the fire. Hardy portrays the villagers as brave and selfless, willing to risk their own lives to save their neighbors’ homes. The poet uses powerful metaphors to describe the villagers’ efforts, comparing them to “a swarm of bees” and “a pack of hounds”. This creates a sense of unity and community, and the reader can feel the strength of the villagers’ determination.

The third and final part of the poem describes the aftermath of the fire. Hardy portrays the devastation caused by the fire, with many of the villagers losing their homes and possessions. However, the poet also highlights the resilience of the villagers, who are determined to rebuild their lives and their community. The poem ends on a hopeful note, with the villagers coming together to rebuild their homes and their lives.

The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s is a classic poem that captures the essence of rural life and the strength of community. Hardy’s use of vivid imagery and powerful metaphors creates a sense of urgency and danger, while also highlighting the bravery and selflessness of the villagers. The poem is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a reminder of the importance of community in times of crisis.

Overall, The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s is a masterpiece of English literature that continues to inspire and captivate readers today. Its timeless themes of community, resilience, and hope make it a must-read for anyone interested in the power of poetry to capture the human experience.

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