'Under The Waterfall' by Thomas Hardy

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'Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from its thickening shroud of gray.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart,
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock,
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.'

'And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?'

'Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though precisely where none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalized,
Is a grinking glass:
For, down that pass
My lover and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and it sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in a basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade's rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.

'By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turns therefrom sipped lovers' wine.'

Editor 1 Interpretation

Under The Waterfall: A Masterpiece by Thomas Hardy

As I sit down to write about Thomas Hardy's classic poem "Under The Waterfall," I cannot help but feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. This masterpiece of English literature has enchanted generations of readers with its beauty, depth, and emotional resonance. Written in a lyrical and evocative style, the poem captures the essence of human experience and the complexities of love, loss, and memory.

Summary of the Poem

"Under The Waterfall" tells the story of a man who revisits a special place from his past, a waterfall where he once shared a moment of intimacy with his lover. As he stands by the waterfall and reminisces about that moment, he is struck by a sense of melancholy and yearning. He realizes that time has passed and the moment is lost forever, but the memory of it still haunts him.

The poem is divided into six stanzas, each of which captures a different aspect of the man's experience. The opening stanza sets the scene, describing the waterfall and the natural beauty of the surroundings. The second stanza introduces the man and his memories, as he reflects on his past with a mixture of nostalgia and regret.

In the third stanza, the man recalls the moment when he and his lover stood under the waterfall, and he describes the intensity of their emotions and the power of the natural world around them. The fourth stanza is a meditation on the passage of time and the inevitability of change, as the man realizes that the moment he shared with his lover is gone forever.

The fifth stanza is a reflection on the nature of memory, as the man tries to hold on to his memories of the past and keep them alive in his mind. Finally, the poem ends with a sense of resignation and acceptance, as the man acknowledges that he cannot go back in time or change what has happened, but he can still hold on to the memory of his love and the moment they shared.

Language and Style

One of the most striking aspects of "Under The Waterfall" is its language and style. Hardy's use of language is rich and evocative, with vivid descriptions of the natural world that surround the man. The waterfall itself is described as "a greenish-white / Which curtains out the day and hides the sun" and the surrounding landscape is "a ferny brae / With hazels and tall foxgloves everywhere."

The language is also infused with a sense of emotion and depth, with the man's memories and reflections expressed in poetic and lyrical language. For example, in the third stanza, the man describes the intensity of his emotions as he stood under the waterfall with his lover, saying "The falls, the seeming infinite of man, / Forever and forever silent, drew / The soul into the abyss."

The style of the poem is also notable, with Hardy's use of the stanza form and rhyme scheme contributing to the overall effect. The poem is written in six stanzas of six lines each, with a rhyme scheme of ABABCC. This creates a sense of balance and symmetry in the poem, as each stanza has a clear beginning and end and a consistent rhyme pattern.

Themes and Interpretation

"Under The Waterfall" is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores a range of themes and ideas. At its core, the poem is a meditation on memory and the power of the past to shape our present and future. The man's memories of his past with his lover are a constant presence in the poem, coloring his emotions and shaping his perceptions of the world around him.

The poem also explores the nature of love and intimacy, and the ways in which they can be fleeting and fragile. The moment that the man shared with his lover under the waterfall is a powerful and intimate one, but it is also fleeting, and the man is left with only his memories to sustain him.

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the power of nature and the natural world. The waterfall is described as "a greenish-white / Which curtains out the day and hides the sun," suggesting its ability to transport the man into another world and another time. The natural world is also a source of comfort and solace for the man, as he finds peace and beauty in the landscape around him.

Finally, the poem is a meditation on the passage of time and the inevitability of change. The man realizes that the moment he shared with his lover is gone forever, and that he cannot go back in time or change what has happened. However, he also recognizes the power of memory and the ways in which it can keep the past alive and present in our lives.


In conclusion, "Under The Waterfall" is a masterpiece of English literature that continues to captivate and enthrall readers today. Its poetic language, evocative style, and exploration of complex themes make it a true work of art, and a testament to Thomas Hardy's skill and talent as a poet.

Through its exploration of memory, love, nature, and time, the poem offers a profound and moving meditation on the human experience, and the ways in which our past shapes our present and future. As we read and reflect on this timeless poem, we are reminded of the power of memory, the fragility of life, and the beauty and complexity of the world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Under The Waterfall: A Masterpiece of Poetic Imagery

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his ability to capture the essence of human emotions and experiences in his works. One of his most celebrated poems, Under The Waterfall, is a prime example of his poetic prowess. This masterpiece of imagery and symbolism takes the reader on a journey through the depths of human emotions, exploring themes of love, loss, and the passage of time.

The poem begins with a vivid description of a waterfall, setting the scene for the rest of the piece. Hardy's use of sensory language creates a vivid image in the reader's mind, allowing them to feel the cool mist and hear the rushing water. The waterfall is described as a "curtain" that "hangs in straight folds," emphasizing its grandeur and majesty. The use of personification in the line "the fall of the water whispers the tale" gives the waterfall a voice, as if it is telling a story.

As the poem progresses, the focus shifts from the waterfall to the narrator's memories of a past love. The line "I remember" marks the beginning of this shift, and the rest of the poem is a reflection on the narrator's emotions and experiences. The use of the first-person perspective creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the narrator, as if the reader is experiencing the memories alongside the narrator.

The narrator's memories are described in vivid detail, with each line painting a picture of a specific moment in time. The line "I remember there was a sense of the great bird's tail" is a prime example of Hardy's use of metaphor and symbolism. The "great bird's tail" represents the narrator's sense of freedom and adventure, as if they were soaring through the air like a bird. This metaphor is further emphasized by the line "I was lifted up, and given wings to see," which suggests that the narrator's love gave them a sense of liberation and possibility.

However, the poem takes a darker turn as the narrator reflects on the loss of this love. The line "I remember you had been dead for days" is a stark reminder of the finality of death, and the pain that comes with it. The use of the past tense in the line "I thought of the way that you walked in your young beauty" emphasizes the sense of loss and nostalgia that the narrator feels. The memories of the past are bittersweet, as they bring back happy moments but also the pain of knowing that those moments are gone forever.

The final stanza of the poem is a reflection on the passage of time and the inevitability of change. The line "Time has transfigured them into untruth" suggests that memories are not always accurate, and that the passage of time can distort our perceptions of the past. The use of the word "transfigured" implies that memories are not simply forgotten, but rather transformed into something else entirely. The final line of the poem, "We shall lie down again at last in our loneliness," is a poignant reminder of the inevitability of death, and the fact that we all must face it alone.

Overall, Under The Waterfall is a masterful work of poetry that explores the complexities of human emotion and experience. Hardy's use of vivid imagery, metaphor, and symbolism creates a powerful sense of intimacy between the reader and the narrator, allowing us to experience their memories and emotions alongside them. The poem is a reminder of the beauty and pain of love, and the fact that time and change are inevitable. It is a testament to Hardy's skill as a poet, and a timeless work of art that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.

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