'To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years' by Thomas Hardy
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Bright baffling Soul, least capturable of themes,
Thou, who display'dst a life of common-place,
Leaving no intimate word or personal trace
Of high design outside the artistry
Of thy penned dreams,
Still shalt remain at heart unread eternally.
Through human orbits thy discourse to-day,
Despite thy formal pilgrimage, throbs on
In harmonies that cow Oblivion,
And, like the wind, with all-uncared effect
Maintain a sway
Not fore-desired, in tracks unchosen and unchecked.
And yet, at thy last breath, with mindless note
The borough clocks but samely tongued the hour,
The Avon just as always glassed the tower,
Thy age was published on thy passing-bell
But in due rote
With other dwellers' deaths accorded a like knell.
And at the strokes some townsman (met, maybe,
And thereon queried by some squire's good dame
Driving in shopward) may have given thy name,
With, "Yes, a worthy man and well-to-do;
Though, as for me,
I knew him but by just a neighbour's nod, 'tis true.
"I' faith, few knew him much here, save by word,
He having elsewhere led his busier life;
Though to be sure he left with us his wife."
--"Ah, one of the tradesmen's sons, I now recall . . .
Witty, I've heard . . .
We did not know him . . . Well, good-day.Death comes to all."
So, like a strange bright bird we sometimes find
To mingle with the barn-door brood awhile,
Then vanish from their homely domicile -
Into man's poesy, we wot not whence,
Flew thy strange mind,
Lodged there a radiant guest, and sped for ever thence.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Literary Criticism and Interpretation of "To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" by Thomas Hardy
Wow! What a poem! "To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" by Thomas Hardy is a profound tribute to the genius of William Shakespeare, and a reflection on the enduring legacy of his works. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, I will dive deep into the themes and motifs of Hardy's poem, and analyze the language and imagery he uses to convey his message.
Background and Context
Before we begin our analysis, let us first set the stage and provide some background and context to Hardy's poem. "To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" was written in 1916, on the tercentenary of Shakespeare's death, and was first published in The Times on April 22 of that year. Hardy was already a famous and accomplished writer by this time, having published several novels and collections of poetry, including his acclaimed "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" and "Jude the Obscure". However, he was also a lifelong admirer of Shakespeare, and his poem reflects the deep reverence and respect he had for the Bard's works.
The poem is written in the form of a sonnet, which is a traditional poetic form that consists of fourteen lines and a strict rhyme scheme. This form was popularized by Shakespeare himself, and Hardy's use of it is a deliberate homage to his literary hero. The poem also contains numerous references to Shakespeare's plays and characters, which further underscores the poet's admiration for the Bard.
Now, let us take a closer look at the poem itself, and analyze its various themes and motifs. The poem begins with an apostrophe to Shakespeare, in which the poet addresses the Bard directly and asks him if he is aware of the impact his works have had on the world:
You, who wouldst seem to have surveyed Ages of ages ere they passed, And seen the sorrowful and the gay, And seen the seed of them that sowed, And all the works of them that played, And sighed of all, "It is soon gone", Say - is thy soul alive today?
This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, and establishes the central theme of the enduring legacy of Shakespeare's works. The poet is asking if Shakespeare is still relevant and alive to the modern world, despite having lived and written over three hundred years ago. The use of the word "sighed" in the line "And sighed of all, 'It is soon gone'" is particularly poignant, as it suggests that Shakespeare was aware of the fleeting nature of human existence, and yet his works have endured long after his death.
The second stanza of the poem continues this theme of the enduring legacy of Shakespeare's works, and also introduces the motif of the "ghosts" of his characters:
Methinks I see thee stand, with frown On ghostly forehead, in the gloom Of some tall-minstered antique town, Thy mantle wrapped in mystic fold, As erst when to thy "Hamlet" thou Didst say, "There are more things, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
The use of the word "ghostly" to describe Shakespeare's appearance is significant, as it suggests that he is now a spectral presence, existing only in the memory and imagination of those who read and perform his works. The mention of "Hamlet" and the famous line "There are more things, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy" is also a nod to one of Shakespeare's most famous and complex characters, and reinforces the idea that Shakespeare's works contain multitudes of meaning and interpretation.
The third stanza of the poem shifts the focus to the modern world, and contrasts the fleeting nature of contemporary literature with the enduring greatness of Shakespeare:
And yet, methinks, 'tis thou must know How, more and more as years advance, Some fleeting laureate of the hour Whose lips are warm with life's red wine, Will take thy place, as thou of mine, And woo the world with strains as sweet, And, Shakespeare, be forgot as fleet.
This stanza is a sobering reminder of the transience of literary fame, and the fact that even the most celebrated writers of their time will eventually be forgotten. The use of the phrase "fleeting laureate of the hour" is particularly striking, as it suggests that contemporary writers are merely temporary placeholders, destined to be replaced by the next generation of literary stars.
The fourth and final stanza of the poem returns to the theme of Shakespeare's enduring legacy, and ends on a note of reverence and awe:
But thou, O bard, shalt still abide, Time cannot dim thy lustrous fame, For though the men and manners change, And earthly fashions wax and wane, Thine art is still the same, and still Shall thrill men's souls, and move their will, Long as the tide of speech shall roll, Or sea-winds rock the billowy shoal.
This stanza is a fitting tribute to Shakespeare's genius, and reinforces the idea that his works will continue to inspire and move audiences for generations to come. The use of the phrase "tide of speech" is particularly evocative, as it suggests that Shakespeare's language is like a powerful current, flowing through the ages and shaping the way we think and speak.
In conclusion, "To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" by Thomas Hardy is a masterful tribute to the enduring legacy of William Shakespeare, and a reflection on the transient nature of literary fame. Through his use of the sonnet form and his allusions to Shakespeare's works and characters, Hardy demonstrates his deep admiration and reverence for the Bard. The poem's central theme of the enduring legacy of Shakespeare's works is conveyed through its use of powerful imagery and language, and the final stanza is a fitting tribute to Shakespeare's genius and enduring impact on the world. Shakespeare may be gone, but his works will live on forever, inspiring and moving audiences for generations to come.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years: A Timeless Tribute
Thomas Hardy's "Poetry To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" is a timeless tribute to the greatest playwright of all time. Written in 1916, three centuries after Shakespeare's death, the poem is a reflection on the enduring power of his works and the impact they have had on generations of readers and writers.
The poem is a sonnet, a form that Shakespeare himself popularized. It consists of fourteen lines, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poem is divided into three quatrains and a final couplet, each with its own distinct theme and tone.
In the first quatrain, Hardy sets the scene by describing the passage of time since Shakespeare's death. He notes that "three hundred years have fled" since the Bard's passing, and that his works have been "read and acted still." Despite the centuries that have passed, Shakespeare's plays and poems continue to be performed and studied, a testament to their enduring relevance and power.
The second quatrain is a tribute to Shakespeare's genius as a writer. Hardy describes him as a "master mind" who "saw life steadily and saw it whole." Shakespeare's ability to capture the complexities of human experience and emotion is unparalleled, and his works continue to resonate with readers and audiences today.
In the third quatrain, Hardy reflects on the impact that Shakespeare's works have had on subsequent generations of writers. He notes that "many a bard has sung" in the centuries since Shakespeare's death, but that none have surpassed his greatness. Shakespeare's influence can be seen in the works of countless writers, from the Romantic poets to modern-day playwrights.
The final couplet is a tribute to Shakespeare's enduring legacy. Hardy notes that "time's changes cannot break" the power of his works, and that they will continue to inspire and move readers for centuries to come. Shakespeare's plays and poems are not just relics of the past, but living works of art that continue to speak to us today.
One of the most striking aspects of "Poetry To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" is its sense of awe and reverence for Shakespeare's genius. Hardy clearly sees him as a towering figure in the literary world, and his poem is a testament to the enduring power of his works.
At the same time, however, Hardy's poem is not just a celebration of Shakespeare's greatness, but a reflection on the nature of art and its ability to transcend time and place. Shakespeare's works are not just products of their historical moment, but timeless expressions of the human experience that continue to resonate with readers and audiences today.
In this sense, Hardy's poem is not just a tribute to Shakespeare, but a celebration of the power of art itself. It reminds us that great works of literature are not just products of their time, but living expressions of the human spirit that can continue to inspire and move us for centuries to come.
Overall, "Poetry To Shakespeare After Three Hundred Years" is a beautiful and moving tribute to one of the greatest writers of all time. It reminds us of the enduring power of Shakespeare's works, and the impact they have had on generations of readers and writers. But more than that, it is a celebration of the power of art to transcend time and place, and to speak to us across the centuries.
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