'The Faded Face' by Thomas Hardy

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How was this I did not see
Such a look as here was shown
Ere its womanhood had blown
Past its first felicity? -
That I did not know you young,
Faded Face,
Know you young!

Why did Time so ill bestead
That I heard no voice of yours
Hail from out the curved contours
Of those lips when rosy red;
Weeted not the songs they sung,
Faded Face,
Songs they sung!

By these blanchings, blooms of old,
And the relics of your voice -
Leavings rare of rich and choice
From your early tone and mould -
Let me mourn,--aye, sorrow-wrung,
Faded Face,

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Faded Face: A Poignant Exploration of Love and Loss

Thomas Hardy is a master storyteller who has written some of the most unforgettable poems in English literature. One such poem that stands out for its melancholic beauty and powerful imagery is "The Faded Face." Published in 1898, the poem captures the essence of lost love and the pain of memory with a depth and sensitivity that few poets can match. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, symbols, and poetic devices used in "The Faded Face," and how they contribute to the poem's overall impact.

The Poem's Themes

At its core, "The Faded Face" is a poem about love and loss. The speaker is haunted by the memory of a woman he loved, who is now long gone. He sees her face everywhere, but it is no longer the face he remembers. Instead, it is a faded, distorted version of her that only serves to remind him of what he has lost. The poem's themes include the transience of life, the power of memory, and the pain of longing.

The Poem's Symbols

One of the most striking symbols in "The Faded Face" is the face itself. The speaker describes it as "writ with woe," and "unlike the face that once had been." This symbolizes the impermanence of beauty and the fleeting nature of life. The woman's face, once radiant and full of life, has now been replaced by a faded, distorted version, just as memories of loved ones fade and distort over time. Another symbol in the poem is the "shadowy throng" that follows the speaker wherever he goes. This represents the memories and ghosts of the past that haunt us and refuse to let us move on.

The Poem's Poetic Devices

"The Faded Face" is a masterclass in poetic technique. Hardy uses a range of devices to create a haunting, melancholic atmosphere that perfectly matches the poem's themes. One of the most effective devices used is imagery. The descriptions of the face and the shadowy throng are vivid and evocative, conjuring up a powerful sense of loss and longing. Another device used is repetition. The lines "I see her still, but oh how changed!" and "I see her not, yet something tells" are repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the speaker's obsession and the persistence of memory. The poem is also full of alliteration, such as "shadowy throng" and "writ with woe," which add to its musicality and emotional impact.

The Poem's Interpretation

"The Faded Face" is a deeply poignant poem that speaks to the universal experience of love and loss. The speaker's obsession with the memory of his lost love is both moving and unsettling, as it highlights the power of memory to both comfort and torment us. The faded face and shadowy throng are powerful symbols that represent the impermanence of life and the stubborn persistence of memory. The poem's use of imagery, repetition, and alliteration create a haunting, melancholic atmosphere that perfectly captures the poem's themes.


In conclusion, "The Faded Face" is a beautiful and haunting poem that explores the themes of love and loss with a depth and sensitivity that few poets can match. Thomas Hardy's use of symbols, imagery, and poetic devices creates a powerful emotional impact that lingers long after the poem has been read. "The Faded Face" is a testament to Hardy's genius as a poet, and a testament to the enduring power of art to capture the human experience in all its beauty and pain.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Faded Face: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, one of the greatest poets of the Victorian era, is known for his poignant and melancholic poetry that reflects the struggles of life and the human condition. Among his many works, "The Faded Face" stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of love, loss, and the passage of time.

The poem is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a strict rhyme scheme and meter. It follows the traditional structure of a sonnet, with three quatrains and a concluding couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, and the meter is iambic pentameter, with ten syllables per line and a stress on every other syllable.

The poem begins with a vivid description of a faded face, which the speaker remembers from his youth. The face is described as "wan" and "worn," with "lines that once were thought eternal." The speaker recalls how he used to admire this face and how it filled him with joy and hope.

However, as time passed, the face lost its beauty and became "pale and strange." The speaker is saddened by this transformation and wonders what caused it. He reflects on the passing of time and how it changes everything, including the people we love.

In the second quatrain, the speaker reveals that the faded face belongs to a woman he once loved. He remembers how they used to walk together in the fields and how her beauty filled him with happiness. However, now that she is old and faded, he feels a sense of loss and regret.

The third quatrain is a reflection on the nature of love and how it is affected by time. The speaker acknowledges that love is not eternal and that it fades with age. He wonders if his love for the woman was based on her beauty alone or if there was something deeper that connected them.

In the concluding couplet, the speaker expresses his sadness and resignation. He accepts that everything fades with time, including love and beauty. He concludes by saying that he will remember the faded face as a symbol of the transience of life and the inevitability of death.

"The Faded Face" is a powerful poem that captures the essence of human experience. It speaks to the universal themes of love, loss, and the passage of time, and it does so with a simplicity and elegance that is characteristic of Hardy's poetry.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of imagery. The faded face is described in vivid detail, with words like "wan," "worn," and "pale" creating a sense of decay and decline. The contrast between the youthful beauty of the face and its faded state is a powerful reminder of the passage of time and the inevitability of aging.

Another notable feature of the poem is its use of language. Hardy's language is simple and direct, yet it conveys a depth of emotion that is both moving and profound. The poem is filled with powerful images and metaphors that capture the essence of the human experience.

For example, the line "Lines that once were thought eternal" is a powerful metaphor for the passage of time and the impermanence of life. The use of the word "eternal" suggests that the lines were once thought to be permanent and unchanging, but now they have faded and disappeared.

Similarly, the line "Love's best treasure is its own decay" is a powerful reflection on the nature of love and how it changes over time. The use of the word "decay" suggests that love is not eternal and that it fades with age. However, the line also suggests that there is something valuable in this decay, perhaps a sense of nostalgia or a reminder of the past.

Overall, "The Faded Face" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry that captures the essence of the human experience. It speaks to the universal themes of love, loss, and the passage of time, and it does so with a simplicity and elegance that is characteristic of Hardy's poetry. It is a poem that will resonate with readers for generations to come, a testament to the enduring power of great literature.

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