'The Choirmaster's Burial' by Thomas Hardy
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He often would ask us
That, when he died,
After playing so many
To their last rest,
If out of us any
Should here abide,
And it would not task us,
We would with our lutes
Play over him
By his grave-brim
The psalm he liked best—
The one whose sense suits
And perhaps we should seem
To him, in Death's dream,
Like the seraphim.
As soon as I knew
That his spirit was gone
I thought this his due,
And spoke thereupon.
"I think", said the vicar,
"A read service quicker
Than viols out-of-doors
In these frosts and hoars.
That old-fashioned way
Requires a fine day,
And it seems to me
It had better not be."
Hence, that afternoon,
Though never knew he
That his wish could not be,
To get through it faster
They buried the master
Without any tune.
But 'twas said that, when
At the dead of next night
The vicar looked out,
There struck on his ken
Where the frost was graying
The headstoned grass,
A band all in white
Like the saints in church-glass,
Singing and playing
The ancient stave
By the choirmaster's grave.
Such the tenor man told
When he had grown old.
Submitted by Guy
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Choirmaster's Burial by Thomas Hardy: A Masterpiece of Symbolism and Irony
As a literary enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by Thomas Hardy's ability to weave complex themes and ideas into his poems. His masterful use of symbolism and irony never ceases to amaze me, and one of the best examples of this can be found in his classic poem, "The Choirmaster's Burial." In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the various themes and literary devices employed by Hardy in this poem and how they contribute to its overall impact.
Overview of the Poem
Before delving into the details, let's first take a quick look at the poem's structure and narrative. "The Choirmaster's Burial" is a narrative poem that tells the story of a choirmaster who dies and is buried in a churchyard. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each containing eight lines. The narrative is primarily told through dialogue between the characters, with the narrator providing occasional commentary.
The Power of Irony
One of the most striking features of "The Choirmaster's Burial" is the use of irony. Right from the opening line, we are presented with a situation that is full of irony. The choirmaster, who had devoted his life to music and the church, is buried without any ceremony or music. Instead, his burial is a quiet affair, with only a few people in attendance.
This irony is further heightened by the fact that the choirmaster's own choir members are not present at his funeral. The narrator tells us that they were "scattered everywhere" and that "none of them thought of him much." This is a powerful commentary on the fleeting nature of fame and the fickle nature of human relationships.
But the irony does not end there. The choirmaster's burial is interrupted by his former lover, who arrives unexpectedly and causes a commotion. This is ironic because it is the choirmaster's love for her that led to his downfall and eventual death. And yet, in death, she is the only one who seems to care about him.
The Layers of Symbolism
Like many of Hardy's works, "The Choirmaster's Burial" is rich in symbolism. The poem is full of images and metaphors that add depth and complexity to the narrative. Let's take a closer look at some of them:
The Unmarked Grave
The fact that the choirmaster's grave is unmarked is a powerful symbol of his forgotten legacy. It is as if he never existed, and his music and contributions to the church have been erased from memory. This symbol is reinforced by the fact that the choirmaster's choir members are scattered and have forgotten about him.
The churchyard itself is also symbolic. It represents the final resting place of the dead and the transitory nature of human life. The fact that the choirmaster is buried in the churchyard, alongside ordinary people, is a reminder of his mortality and the fact that death is the great equalizer.
The Apple Tree
The apple tree that grows near the choirmaster's grave is a symbol of life and regeneration. It is a reminder that even in death, there is the possibility of new life and growth. This is reinforced by the fact that the lover is pregnant, which is a powerful symbol of new life and the continuation of the cycle of life and death.
The lover is perhaps the most complex symbol in the poem. On the one hand, she represents the choirmaster's downfall and the passion that led to his eventual death. On the other hand, she is a symbol of love and compassion. Her arrival at the choirmaster's burial is a powerful reminder that even in death, there is the possibility of forgiveness and redemption.
The Themes of Love and Death
At its core, "The Choirmaster's Burial" is a poem about love and death. The narrative is driven by the tension between these two themes, and Hardy uses them to explore some of the most fundamental questions of human existence.
Love is a double-edged sword in this poem. On the one hand, it is the source of the choirmaster's downfall. His love for his former lover leads to his dismissal and eventual death. On the other hand, it is the only thing that seems to matter in the end. The fact that the lover arrives at the choirmaster's burial and mourns his passing is a powerful reminder of the enduring power of love.
Death is the great equalizer in this poem. It is a reminder that no matter how famous or talented we may be, we will all eventually meet the same fate. The fact that the choirmaster is buried in an unmarked grave, with only a few people in attendance, underscores the finality of death and the transitory nature of human life.
In conclusion, "The Choirmaster's Burial" is a masterpiece of symbolism and irony. Hardy's use of these literary devices adds depth and complexity to the narrative, and his exploration of themes such as love and death is both profound and thought-provoking. This poem is a testament to Hardy's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the human experience in all its complexity and nuance.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Choirmaster's Burial: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his exceptional ability to capture the essence of human emotions and experiences in his works. One of his most celebrated poems, The Choirmaster's Burial, is a masterpiece that explores the themes of love, loss, and the inevitability of death. In this article, we will delve into the poem's structure, language, and symbolism to understand its significance and impact.
The poem tells the story of a choirmaster who dies and is buried in a churchyard. The narrative is presented through the eyes of a passerby who observes the funeral procession and reflects on the choirmaster's life and legacy. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with four lines, and follows a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB.
The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the main characters. The passerby notices the funeral procession and recognizes the mourners as the choir members. He also observes the presence of a woman who is not part of the choir and wonders about her relationship with the choirmaster. The stanza ends with the passerby's curiosity about the choirmaster's life and legacy.
The second stanza provides a glimpse into the choirmaster's life. The passerby imagines the choirmaster's youth and his passion for music. He also imagines the choirmaster's love for the woman who is present at the funeral. The stanza ends with the passerby's realization that the choirmaster's love was unrequited, and he died without fulfilling his desires.
The third stanza shifts the focus to the present moment and the funeral procession. The passerby observes the choir members carrying the choirmaster's coffin and the woman walking behind them. He also notices the absence of any family members or friends. The stanza ends with the passerby's reflection on the choirmaster's lonely death.
The fourth stanza explores the symbolism of the churchyard and the burial. The passerby observes the choirmaster's burial in the churchyard, which represents the final resting place for the dead. He also reflects on the inevitability of death and the fact that everyone will eventually end up in a similar place. The stanza ends with the passerby's realization that the choirmaster's legacy will live on through his music.
The fifth stanza returns to the choirmaster's life and legacy. The passerby reflects on the choirmaster's music and its ability to evoke emotions and memories. He also imagines the choirmaster's spirit lingering in the churchyard and continuing to inspire others through his music. The stanza ends with the passerby's appreciation for the choirmaster's contribution to the world.
The final stanza concludes the poem with a powerful message about the value of human life. The passerby reflects on the choirmaster's lonely death and the fact that he was not mourned by anyone except the choir members. He then realizes that every human life is precious and deserves to be celebrated and mourned. The stanza ends with the passerby's hope that the choirmaster's legacy will inspire others to appreciate the value of human life.
The language of the poem is simple yet powerful, with vivid imagery and metaphors that evoke strong emotions. The use of the churchyard as a symbol of death and the burial as a symbol of finality is particularly effective in conveying the poem's themes. The repetition of the ABAB rhyme scheme also adds to the poem's musicality and reinforces the importance of music in the choirmaster's life.
In conclusion, The Choirmaster's Burial is a masterpiece of Thomas Hardy that explores the themes of love, loss, and the inevitability of death. The poem's structure, language, and symbolism all contribute to its impact and significance. Through the passerby's observations and reflections, the poem reminds us of the value of human life and the importance of celebrating and mourning those who have passed away. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and move readers to this day.
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