'The Ghost Of The Past' by Thomas Hardy

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We two kept house, the Past and I,
The Past and I;
I tended while it hovered nigh,
Leaving me never alone.
It was a spectral housekeeping
Where fell no jarring tone,
As strange, as still a housekeeping
As ever has been known.

As daily I went up the stair,
And down the stair,
I did not mind the Bygone there --
The Present once to me;
Its moving meek companionship
I wished might ever be,
There was in that companionship
Something of ecstasy.

It dwelt with me just as it was,
Just as it was
When first its prospects gave me pause
In wayward wanderings,
Before the years had torn old troths
As they tear all sweet things,
Before gaunt griefs had torn old troths
And dulled old rapturings.

And then its form began to fade,
Began to fade,
Its gentle echoes faintlier played
At eves upon my ear
Than when the autumn's look embrowned
The lonely chambers here,
The autumn's settling shades embrowned
Nooks that it haunted near.

And so with time my vision less,
Yea, less and less
Makes of that Past my housemistress,
It dwindles in my eye;
It looms a far-off skeleton
And not a comrade nigh,
A fitful far-off skeleton
Dimming as days draw by.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Ghost Of The Past: A Haunting Poem by Thomas Hardy

As a literary enthusiast and a lover of poetry, I am always on the lookout for poems that can stir my emotions and spark my imagination. And when I stumbled upon Thomas Hardy's "The Ghost Of The Past", I knew that I had found a gem that would stay with me for a long time.

At first glance, the poem seems like a simple narrative of a man who is haunted by the memories of his past love. But as I delved deeper into the verses, I realized that there is so much more to this haunting ballad than meets the eye.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the various themes, symbols, and literary techniques used by Hardy to weave a tale that is both haunting and poignant.

A Glimpse into the Past

The poem opens with a vivid description of a man who is walking alone at night, lost in his thoughts:

Oh, there are eyes that he can see,
And hands that he can hold;
And though they be nor true nor free,
They are not dead and cold.

From the very first stanza, we get a sense of the protagonist's loneliness and his yearning for companionship. He longs for someone to hold and to love, even if they are not true or free. This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as we see the protagonist grappling with the memories of his past love.

As he walks, he hears the sound of a bell tolling in the distance. This bell serves as a symbol for the past, a reminder of the memories that he cannot escape. The imagery of the bell tolling in the night adds to the eerie atmosphere of the poem, as if the past is a ghost that is haunting the protagonist.

The Haunting of Love

As the protagonist continues his walk, he is suddenly struck by a memory of his past love:

But she, the one whose voice outvies
The mellow nightingale's,
Had been his life's one enterprise,
His many years' avail. 

These lines are some of the most powerful in the poem, as they reveal the depth of the protagonist's love for his lost love. Her voice is described as being more beautiful than the nightingale's, and she was his life's one purpose.

But this love was not meant to be, and the protagonist is left alone to grapple with his memories. The repetition of the word "lonely" in the third stanza emphasizes the protagonist's isolation and the weight of his memories.

The Power of Memory

As the poem reaches its climax, the protagonist is consumed by his memories, unable to escape the haunting of his past love:

And now he hears her, and now hears
The words she said to him;
Her breath on him, her tears, her tears,
And then his senses swim. 

These lines are a testament to the power of memory and the ways in which it can consume us. The protagonist is transported back to a moment in time when he was with his lost love, and he can hear her voice and feel her presence as if she were still there.

The repeated use of the word "her" in these lines emphasizes the protagonist's fixation on his past love. He is unable to let go of her memory, even as it consumes him.

The Ghost of the Past

The final stanza of the poem is a haunting reminder of the power of memory and the ways in which it can haunt us:

Oh, ghost of love that visits thus
The beds where men repose!
The cup that's quaffed, the coin that's us
Outlast their tombstone shows. 

In these lines, the memory of the protagonist's lost love is likened to a ghost that visits him in the night. This metaphor emphasizes the haunting nature of memory, as it can linger long after the physical presence of a person is gone.

The final two lines of the poem are a powerful reflection on the nature of memory. The cup that is quaffed and the coin that is used can outlast a person's tombstone, serving as a testament to the ways in which memories can endure long after we are gone.


Thomas Hardy's "The Ghost Of The Past" is a haunting and poignant poem that explores the power of memory and the ways in which the past can haunt us. Through vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and a haunting tone, Hardy weaves a tale that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

As a literary enthusiast, I was struck by the power of this poem and the ways in which it captures the essence of human emotion. The themes of loss, love, and memory are universal, and Hardy's portrayal of them in this poem is nothing short of masterful.

In conclusion, "The Ghost Of The Past" is a poem that deserves to be read and appreciated by all lovers of literature. Its haunting beauty will stay with you long after you have finished reading it, leaving you with a newfound appreciation for the power of memory and the enduring nature of love.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Ghost of the Past: A Haunting Poem by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his melancholic and haunting works that explore the complexities of human emotions and relationships. One of his most famous poems, "The Ghost of the Past," is a poignant reflection on the power of memory and the pain of lost love. In this article, we will delve into the themes, imagery, and language of this classic poem and explore its enduring relevance.

The poem opens with a vivid description of a ghostly figure that appears to the speaker in the dead of night:

"Oft I saw a ghostly figure Darkly stealing through a gauge, On whose face was writ the vigour Of a life denied its wage."

The use of the word "ghostly" immediately sets the tone for the poem, suggesting that the figure is not of this world and is perhaps a manifestation of the speaker's own memories and regrets. The image of the figure "stealing through a gauge" adds to the eerie atmosphere, as if the ghost is sneaking through a narrow passage or tunnel. The phrase "life denied its wage" is particularly poignant, suggesting that the figure is a symbol of someone who has been denied the rewards of their hard work and sacrifice.

As the poem progresses, the speaker reveals that the ghost is actually a representation of his own past love, who he has lost and can never regain:

"Till I knew that ghostly figure Was the life that once was mine, And that I myself was bigger When that life lay in its shrine."

The use of the word "shrine" here is significant, as it suggests that the speaker's past love was something sacred and revered, something that he held dear and cherished. The phrase "life that once was mine" is also telling, as it suggests that the speaker has moved on from his past love and is now living a different life. However, the fact that he still sees her as a ghostly figure suggests that he has not fully let go of his past and is haunted by the memory of what he has lost.

The poem then takes a more introspective turn, as the speaker reflects on his own role in the loss of his past love:

"Then I knew that I had wronged her, And that I had lost the key Of a heart that once belonged her, And was now a ghost to me."

The use of the word "key" here is significant, as it suggests that the speaker had the power to unlock his past love's heart and keep her close to him, but he failed to do so. The fact that he now sees her as a ghost suggests that he is haunted by the memory of his own mistakes and regrets. The phrase "was now a ghost to me" is particularly poignant, as it suggests that the speaker's past love is now beyond his reach and can only exist as a memory.

The poem then ends with a powerful and haunting image of the ghostly figure disappearing into the night:

"So I watched that ghostly figure Till it vanished in the night, And I knew that I was bigger For the loss of that lost light."

The use of the word "watched" here suggests that the speaker is powerless to stop the ghostly figure from disappearing, just as he was powerless to hold onto his past love. The fact that he feels "bigger" for the loss of his past love is a paradoxical statement, as it suggests that he has gained something from his pain and regret. Perhaps he has gained a deeper understanding of himself and his own flaws, or perhaps he has gained a greater appreciation for the fleeting nature of love and life.

Overall, "The Ghost of the Past" is a haunting and melancholic poem that explores the themes of memory, loss, and regret. The use of vivid imagery and powerful language creates a sense of unease and sadness, as the speaker grapples with the pain of lost love and the weight of his own mistakes. Despite its somber tone, the poem offers a glimmer of hope in its final lines, suggesting that even in the face of loss and regret, there is still the possibility for growth and self-discovery.

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