'Fragment' by Thomas Hardy

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At last I entered a long dark gallery,
Catacomb-lined; and ranged at the side
Were the bodies of men from far and wide
Who, motion past, were nevertheless not dead.

"The sense of waiting here strikes strong;
Everyone's waiting, waiting, it seems to me;
What are you waiting for so long? --
What is to happen?" I said.

"O we are waiting for one called God," said they,
"(Though by some the Will, or Force, or Laws;
And, vaguely, by some, the Ultimate Cause;)
Waiting for him to see us before we are clay.
Yes; waiting, waiting, for God to know it." ...

"To know what?" questioned I.
"To know how things have been going on earth and below it:
It is clear he must know some day."
I thereon asked them why.
"Since he made us humble pioneers
Of himself in consciousness of Life's tears,
It needs no mighty prophecy
To tell that what he could mindlessly show
His creatures, he himself will know.

"By some still close-cowled mystery
We have reached feeling faster than he,
But he will overtake us anon,
If the world goes on."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Fragment by Thomas Hardy: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

When it comes to the works of Thomas Hardy, it's hard not to be blown away by the raw intensity and depth of emotion in his writing. One of his most powerful and haunting works is the poem "Fragment," which captures the essence of human longing and the fleeting nature of love. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll take a closer look at "Fragment" and explore its themes, symbolism, and literary techniques.

Overview of "Fragment"

"Fragment" is a short poem consisting of four stanzas, each with four lines. It was written by Thomas Hardy in 1900 and was later published in his collection "Poems of the Past and Present" in 1901. The poem is written in free verse, meaning it does not adhere to any strict rhyme or meter scheme.

Themes in "Fragment"

At its core, "Fragment" is a poem about the nature of love and the human desire for connection. The poem explores the idea that love is fleeting and that even the most intense connections between people can be broken by time and circumstance.

Additionally, "Fragment" touches on the themes of loss and nostalgia. The speaker of the poem reflects on a past love and longs for the connection they once shared. The poem is infused with a sense of sadness and regret, as the speaker mourns the loss of something that can never be regained.

Symbolism in "Fragment"

One of the most striking elements of "Fragment" is its use of symbolism to convey its themes. The most prominent symbol in the poem is the image of the "fragments" that the speaker is left with after the end of his love affair. These fragments are a metaphor for the memories and emotions that linger after a relationship ends.

Additionally, the poem's use of natural imagery, such as the "falling leaves" and "wintry wind," symbolizes the passage of time and the inevitability of change. This imagery reinforces the idea that even the strongest love can be eroded by the forces of time and circumstance.

Literary Techniques in "Fragment"

In addition to its use of symbolism, "Fragment" also employs a number of literary techniques to convey its themes. One of the most notable is the poem's use of repetition. The phrase "I look for" appears in the first three stanzas, emphasizing the speaker's longing for connection and his inability to find it.

Furthermore, the poem's structure and syntax contribute to its impact. The short, staccato lines and lack of punctuation create a sense of urgency and emotional intensity. The poem's brevity also adds to its power, as it conveys a wealth of emotion in just sixteen lines.

Interpretation of "Fragment"

Overall, "Fragment" is a deeply moving poem that captures the essence of human longing and the fleeting nature of love. The speaker's sense of loss and nostalgia is palpable, and the poem's use of symbolism and literary techniques adds to its power and impact.

At its core, "Fragment" is a reminder of how fragile and fleeting our connections with others can be. It urges us to cherish the moments we have with those we love, as we never know when they may be gone forever. In this way, "Fragment" is not just a literary work, but a poignant meditation on the human experience.


In conclusion, "Fragment" is a masterpiece of modern poetry. Its themes of love, loss, and nostalgia resonate deeply with readers, and its powerful use of symbolism and literary techniques elevates it to a work of art. If you haven't read this poem before, I highly recommend it. It's a true gem of English literature, and a testament to the enduring power of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Fragment by Thomas Hardy: A Masterpiece of Poetic Ambiguity

Thomas Hardy is one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, known for his poignant and evocative works that explore the complexities of human emotions and relationships. Among his many masterpieces, Fragment stands out as a prime example of his poetic genius, showcasing his ability to capture the essence of a moment in time and imbue it with layers of meaning and ambiguity.

At first glance, Fragment appears to be a simple and straightforward poem, consisting of just four lines:

"I look for the way Skyward, and see O white-swathed form Borne on high."

However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the poem is far from simplistic. In fact, it is a complex and multi-layered work that invites multiple interpretations and readings, each one revealing a different facet of Hardy's poetic vision.

One of the most striking features of Fragment is its ambiguity. The poem is deliberately vague and open-ended, leaving much to the reader's imagination and interpretation. This ambiguity is evident from the very first line, where the speaker declares that they are "looking for the way." The phrase "the way" could refer to a physical path or route, but it could also have a more metaphorical meaning, such as a spiritual or emotional journey. This ambiguity sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is similarly open to multiple interpretations.

The second line of the poem, "Skyward, and see," is equally ambiguous. The phrase "skyward" suggests a sense of upward movement or aspiration, but it is unclear what the speaker is seeing. Is it a bird, a plane, a cloud, or something else entirely? The ambiguity of this line invites the reader to fill in the gaps with their own imagination and interpretation.

The third line of the poem, "O white-swathed form," is perhaps the most enigmatic of all. The phrase "white-swathed" suggests a sense of purity or innocence, but it is unclear what the form is or what it represents. Is it a person, an object, or a symbol? The ambiguity of this line is compounded by the use of the archaic interjection "O," which adds a sense of emotional intensity and urgency to the poem.

The final line of the poem, "Borne on high," is similarly open to interpretation. The phrase "borne on high" suggests a sense of elevation or transcendence, but it is unclear what is doing the bearing or what the destination is. Is the form being carried by the wind, by angels, or by some other force? The ambiguity of this line leaves the reader with a sense of mystery and wonder, as they try to piece together the meaning of the poem.

One possible interpretation of Fragment is that it is a meditation on the fleeting nature of beauty and the transience of life. The speaker is searching for something, perhaps a sense of purpose or meaning, and looks skyward in the hope of finding it. They see a white-swathed form, which could represent a beautiful object or person, but it is quickly borne away on high, disappearing from view. This could be seen as a metaphor for the impermanence of beauty and the inevitability of death, as even the most beautiful things are eventually carried away by time.

Another possible interpretation of Fragment is that it is a reflection on the power of the imagination and the human capacity for wonder. The speaker is looking for the way, but it is unclear what they are searching for. The white-swathed form could be a product of their imagination, a vision that they have conjured up in their mind's eye. The fact that it is borne on high could represent the power of the imagination to transcend the limitations of the physical world and reach new heights of creativity and inspiration.

Yet another possible interpretation of Fragment is that it is a commentary on the limitations of language and the inadequacy of words to capture the full range of human experience. The poem is deliberately vague and open-ended, leaving much to the reader's interpretation. This could be seen as a reflection of the limitations of language, which can never fully capture the complexity and nuance of human emotions and experiences. The white-swathed form could represent something that is beyond words, something that can only be felt or experienced but never fully expressed in language.

In conclusion, Fragment is a masterpiece of poetic ambiguity, showcasing Thomas Hardy's ability to capture the essence of a moment in time and imbue it with layers of meaning and interpretation. The poem invites multiple readings and interpretations, each one revealing a different facet of Hardy's poetic vision. Whether it is a meditation on the transience of beauty, a reflection on the power of the imagination, or a commentary on the limitations of language, Fragment is a work of art that continues to captivate and inspire readers to this day.

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