'In The Vaulted Way' by Thomas Hardy
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In the vaulted way, where the passage turned
To the shadowy corner that none could see,
You paused for our parting, - plaintively:
Though overnight had come words that burned
My fond frail happiness out of me.
And then I kissed you, - despite my thought
That our spell must end when reflection came
On what you had deemed me, whose one long aim
Had been to serve you; that what I sought
Lay not in a heart that could breathe such blame.
But yet I kissed you: whereon you again
As of old kissed me. Why, why was it so?
Do you cleave to me after that light-tongued blow?
If you scorned me at eventide, how love then?
The thing is dark, Dear. I do not know.
Editor 1 Interpretation
In The Vaulted Way: A Masterful Work of Poetry
When it comes to Thomas Hardy's body of work, In The Vaulted Way stands out as one of the most powerful and poignant poems ever written. The poem is a perfect example of Hardy's mastery of language, and his ability to transcend time and space to connect with readers across generations. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the meaning of In The Vaulted Way, and explore the themes, symbols, and language used by Hardy to convey his message.
Background of the Poem
Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in Dorset, England. He was a prolific writer who produced several novels, poems, and plays during his lifetime. In The Vaulted Way was first published in 1895 in a collection of Hardy's poems titled Wessex Poems. The poem is set in the countryside of Wessex, which is a fictionalized version of the rural area of southwestern England where Hardy grew up.
In The Vaulted Way is a 16-stanza poem that is written in Hardy's signature style of free verse. The poem is divided into two parts: the first part describes a scene of a man walking through a dark and eerie tunnel, while the second part shifts to a meditation on the nature of life and death.
Part One: The Journey Through the Tunnel
The first part of the poem describes the journey of a man as he walks through a tunnel that is "vaulted by rock and root." The tunnel is dark and eerie, and the man is overcome by a sense of foreboding as he makes his way through it. The tunnel is so narrow that the man can barely see his way ahead, and he is forced to use his hands and feet to navigate through the darkness.
The language used by Hardy in this part of the poem is particularly striking. He uses vivid imagery and sensory details to create a sense of unease and tension. For example, he describes the walls of the tunnel as being "gnarled and wrinkled like an ancient crone," while the air inside the tunnel is described as being "chill and dank." The use of such language creates a sense of foreboding and dread, which perfectly captures the mood of the scene.
Despite the darkness and unease of the tunnel, the man continues on his journey. He is driven forward by a sense of curiosity and a desire to see what lies at the end of the tunnel. As he moves deeper into the tunnel, however, he begins to feel a sense of claustrophobia and panic. The walls of the tunnel seem to be closing in on him, and he feels as though he is being swallowed up by the darkness.
Part Two: The Meditation on Life and Death
The second part of the poem shifts from a description of the man's journey through the tunnel to a meditation on the nature of life and death. Hardy uses this part of the poem to explore the idea of mortality and the inevitability of death.
He begins by describing the man's journey as being symbolic of the journey that all of us must take through life. He compares the darkness of the tunnel to the darkness of the grave, and suggests that death is a journey that we must all take, whether we want to or not.
Hardy then goes on to explore the idea of the afterlife. He suggests that the afterlife is a place of peace and tranquility, where we are free from the pain and suffering of the world. He describes the afterlife as being like a "soft rest," where we can finally find peace after a life filled with struggles and hardships.
The poem ends on a note of hope, with Hardy suggesting that death is not the end, but merely a transition to a new and better life. He writes:
And when I meet thee I shall say, 'O long desired and long delayed, Why didst thou take so long to come? Or why delay so long to stay?'
The use of the word "long" in this stanza suggests that death is not something to be feared or dreaded, but rather something that is longed for and desired. This final stanza is a powerful message of hope and comfort, and it perfectly captures the essence of the poem.
Themes and Symbols
There are several themes and symbols that run throughout In The Vaulted Way. One of the most prominent themes is the idea of mortality and the inevitability of death. Hardy uses the journey through the tunnel as a metaphor for the journey through life, and suggests that death is something that we must all face eventually.
Another important theme is the idea of hope and the afterlife. Hardy suggests that death is not the end, but rather a transition to a new and better life. He uses the imagery of a "soft rest" to convey the idea that the afterlife is a place of peace and tranquility, where we can finally find rest after a life filled with struggle and hardship.
There are also several symbols that are used throughout the poem. The tunnel itself is a powerful symbol of death and the afterlife. It is dark and foreboding, and represents the unknown journey that we must all take at the end of our lives. The use of light and darkness is also a powerful symbol in the poem. The darkness of the tunnel represents the fear and uncertainty that we feel about death, while the light at the end of the tunnel represents the hope and comfort that we feel when we realize that death is not the end.
In The Vaulted Way is a masterful work of poetry that explores the themes of mortality and the afterlife. Hardy uses vivid imagery and powerful language to create a sense of unease and tension in the first part of the poem, before shifting to a meditation on the nature of life and death in the second part. The poem is a powerful message of hope and comfort, and it perfectly captures the essence of Hardy's philosophy on life and death.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
In The Vaulted Way: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his realistic portrayal of life in the Victorian era. His works often reflect the struggles of ordinary people and their relationships with society. One of his most celebrated poems, In The Vaulted Way, is a masterpiece that captures the essence of human emotions and the inevitability of death.
The poem is set in a churchyard, where the speaker is walking along a path that is arched by trees. The path is described as a "vaulted way," which creates a sense of enclosure and confinement. The speaker is alone, and the silence of the churchyard is only broken by the rustling of leaves and the occasional chirping of birds. The atmosphere is eerie and foreboding, setting the tone for the rest of the poem.
The first stanza of the poem sets the scene and establishes the mood. The speaker describes the "vaulted way" as a "long, long avenue" that leads to the "silent city of the dead." The use of repetition emphasizes the length of the path and the final destination. The phrase "silent city of the dead" creates a sense of finality and inevitability. The speaker is aware that death is the ultimate destination for all living beings, and the churchyard serves as a reminder of this fact.
In the second stanza, the speaker reflects on the lives of the people buried in the churchyard. He imagines their lives and the struggles they faced. The phrase "each with his or her own load" suggests that everyone has their own burdens to bear. The use of the word "load" creates a sense of weight and responsibility, emphasizing the difficulties of life. The speaker acknowledges that everyone has their own story, and their lives are just as important as his own.
The third stanza is the most poignant and emotional part of the poem. The speaker comes across a grave that is covered in flowers. He imagines the person buried there and the love they must have inspired. The phrase "some heart once pregnant with celestial fire" suggests that the person was once full of life and passion. The use of the word "pregnant" creates a sense of potential and possibility. The speaker is moved by the sight of the flowers and the love they represent. He realizes that even in death, love can still flourish.
The fourth stanza is a reflection on the inevitability of death. The speaker acknowledges that death is a natural part of life and that everyone will eventually face it. The phrase "all must come to this" emphasizes the universality of death. The use of the word "this" creates a sense of finality and inevitability. The speaker is resigned to the fact that death is unavoidable.
The final stanza is a reflection on the speaker's own mortality. He imagines his own death and the inevitability of his own grave. The phrase "my own grave waiting for me" creates a sense of anticipation and acceptance. The speaker is aware that his time will come, and he is ready to face it. The final line of the poem, "And the vaulted way to it, O, the vaulted way to it!" emphasizes the inevitability of death and the journey that leads to it.
In The Vaulted Way is a powerful poem that captures the essence of human emotions and the inevitability of death. The use of imagery and repetition creates a sense of enclosure and confinement, emphasizing the finality of death. The poem is a reflection on the lives of the people buried in the churchyard and the struggles they faced. The emotional impact of the poem is heightened by the speaker's reflection on his own mortality. The poem is a reminder that death is a natural part of life and that everyone will eventually face it. It is a masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers today.
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