'At Lulworth Cove A Century Back' by Thomas Hardy

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Had I but lived a hundred years ago
I might have gone, as I have gone this year,
By Warmwell Cross on to a Cove I know,
And Time have placed his finger on me there:

"You see that man?" -- I might have looked, and said,
"O yes: I see him. One that boat has brought
Which dropped down Channel round Saint Alban's Head.
So commonplace a youth calls not my thought."

"You see that man?" -- "Why yes; I told you; yes:
Of an idling town-sort; thin; hair brown in hue;
And as the evening light scants less and less
He looks up at a star, as many do."

"You see that man?" -- "Nay, leave me!" then I plead,
"I have fifteen miles to vamp across the lea,
And it grows dark, and I am weary-kneed:
I have said the third time; yes, that man I see!"

"Good. That man goes to Rome -- to death, despair;
And no one notes him now but you and I:
A hundred years, and the world will follow him there,
And bend with reverence where his ashes lie."

Editor 1 Interpretation

At Lulworth Cove A Century Back - A Tale of Love and Loss

Have you ever been to Lulworth Cove? If yes, then you might relate to the beauty and serenity of the place. If not, then you are missing out on something unique and extraordinary. But did you know that this charming cove inspired one of the most heart-wrenching poems of all time, written by none other than the celebrated English poet and novelist, Thomas Hardy?

Yes, I am talking about "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back," a poem that captures the essence of love, loss, and remembrance. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve deep into the nuances of the poem and explore its themes, motifs, and symbols.

The Context

Before we dive into the poem, let's understand the context in which it was written. Thomas Hardy was a Victorian writer who lived from 1840 until 1928. He was a prolific author, penning numerous novels, short stories, and poems during his lifetime. However, he is best known for his novels, which often depicted the harsh realities of life in rural England.

Hardy's poetry was equally powerful, as it often dealt with themes of love, loss, and mortality. "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" is a prime example of this. It was written in 1917, during the First World War, when Hardy was in his late seventies. The poem is a poignant reflection on a lost love and a reminder of the fleeting nature of life.

The Poem

Let's begin by examining the poem itself. "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" is a sonnet, consisting of fourteen lines. It follows the traditional rhyme scheme of an English sonnet, with three quatrains and a concluding couplet.

The poem begins with a description of the natural beauty of Lulworth Cove. Hardy paints a vivid picture of the rugged cliffs, the sparkling sea, and the peaceful bay. He then introduces the central theme of the poem – the memory of a lost love. He describes how he once walked along the same beach with his lover, a hundred years ago. He recalls the joy and happiness they shared, and the promise of eternal love.

However, time has passed, and his lover is now long gone. Hardy is left with nothing but memories and regrets. He mourns the loss of his love and wonders if he will ever find happiness again. The poem ends with a somber note, as Hardy realizes that love is fragile and fleeting, and that death is inevitable.

The Themes

The themes of "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" are universal and timeless. They deal with the human condition, our longing for love and connection, and our fear of loss and mortality. Let's examine some of the main themes of the poem in more detail.

Love and Loss

The central theme of the poem is love and loss. Hardy portrays love as a powerful force that can bring joy and happiness to our lives. However, he also recognizes that love is fragile and fleeting. The memory of his lost love haunts him, and he mourns the passing of time and the inevitability of death.

Time and Mortality

Another major theme of the poem is time and mortality. Hardy reflects on the passing of time and how it affects our lives. He sees time as a relentless force that erodes everything, including love and memory. He also acknowledges that life is short and that death is inevitable.

Nature and the Environment

Nature and the environment also play a significant role in the poem. Hardy's description of Lulworth Cove is a testament to his love of nature and his appreciation of its beauty. The rugged cliffs, the sparkling sea, and the peaceful bay provide a stark contrast to the fleeting nature of human life.

The Motifs and Symbols

The motifs and symbols in "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" add depth and meaning to the poem. They imbue it with a sense of mystery and complexity, inviting the reader to explore its deeper layers.

The Sea

The sea is a recurring motif in the poem. It represents the eternal nature of life and the passing of time. The sea is also a symbol of the unknown and the mysterious. It evokes a sense of awe and wonder, reminding us of the vastness of the universe and our own insignificance.

The Beach

The beach is another important motif in the poem. It represents a place of happiness and joy, where the speaker and his lover once walked together. However, it also symbolizes the fleeting nature of human life and the inevitability of loss and change.

The "Century"

The "century" in the title of the poem is a symbol of the passage of time. It emphasizes the distance between the present and the past, and the fleeting nature of human life. It also suggests a sense of nostalgia and longing for a time that has passed.

The Interpretation

So, what does "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" mean? What message is Hardy trying to convey through his poem? The beauty of poetry lies in its ambiguity and openness to interpretation. However, here is my take on the poem.

I believe that Hardy is reflecting on the fragility of love and the fleeting nature of life. He is mourning the loss of his lover and acknowledging the inevitability of death. At the same time, he is celebrating the beauty of nature and the power of memory. The sea, the beach, and the "century" are all symbols of the passing of time and the transience of human life.

The poem reminds us that life is short and that we should cherish the moments we have with our loved ones. It also urges us to appreciate the beauty of nature and to find solace in memories that can never be erased. In a way, the poem offers a message of hope and resilience, urging us to find meaning and purpose in a world that is constantly changing.


"At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" is a masterpiece of English poetry. It captures the essence of love, loss, and remembrance, and invites us to reflect on the fleeting nature of life. The poem is a testament to Thomas Hardy's skill as a poet and his deep understanding of the human condition. It is a reminder that even in the face of loss and mortality, we can find solace in the beauty of nature and the power of memory.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

At Lulworth Cove A Century Back: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his vivid portrayal of rural life and the human condition. His poem "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the English countryside and the passage of time. In this article, we will delve into the poem's themes, structure, and language to understand its significance.

The poem is set in Lulworth Cove, a small coastal village in Dorset, England. The speaker of the poem is reflecting on the changes that have occurred in the village over the past century. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the village's history.

The first stanza describes the natural beauty of the cove and the surrounding landscape. The speaker marvels at the "azure marge" of the sea and the "cliffs and peaks" that rise up around the cove. He notes that the village has changed little in terms of its physical appearance, and that the same "rude roofs" and "weathered walls" still stand as they did a century ago.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the people who have lived in the village over the years. The speaker notes that the "old folk" who once inhabited the village have passed away, and that their descendants have moved away to seek their fortunes elsewhere. He laments the loss of the village's traditions and the passing of an era.

The third stanza brings the poem full circle, as the speaker reflects on his own mortality. He notes that he too will one day pass away, and that the village will continue to change and evolve long after he is gone. He concludes by stating that the only constant in life is change, and that we must learn to accept it.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of language. Hardy's descriptions of the natural world are vivid and evocative, painting a picture of the cove that is both beautiful and timeless. His use of alliteration and assonance creates a musical quality to the poem, adding to its emotional impact.

Another notable feature of the poem is its structure. The use of three stanzas creates a sense of progression, as the speaker moves from a description of the physical landscape to a reflection on the passage of time and the inevitability of change. The repetition of the phrase "a century back" throughout the poem reinforces this sense of time passing, and creates a haunting quality to the poem.

At its core, "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" is a meditation on the passage of time and the transience of human life. Hardy uses the village of Lulworth Cove as a microcosm for the larger world, showing how even the most beautiful and enduring things are subject to change and decay. The poem is a reminder that we must cherish the present moment, for it too will soon be gone.

In conclusion, "At Lulworth Cove A Century Back" is a masterpiece of English poetry that captures the essence of the human condition. Its themes of time, change, and mortality are universal, and its language and structure are masterful. Thomas Hardy's poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the beauty and complexity of life, and it remains a timeless work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.

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