'The Masked Face' by Thomas Hardy

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I found me in a great surging space,
At either end a door,
And I said: "What is this giddying place,
With no firm-fixéd floor,
That I knew not of before?"
"It is Life," said a mask-clad face.

I asked: "But how do I come here,
Who never wished to come;
Can the light and air be made more clear,
The floor more quietsome,
And the doors set wide? They numb
Fast-locked, and fill with fear."

The mask put on a bleak smile then,
And said, "O vassal-wight,
There once complained a goosequill pen
To the scribe of the Infinite
Of the words it had to write
Because they were past its ken."

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Masked Face: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Thomas Hardy is a renowned poet and novelist known for his romantic and melancholic themes. One of his classic poems, The Masked Face, showcases his poetic prowess in portraying the complexity of human emotions and the facade people often hide behind.

Overview of The Masked Face

The Masked Face is a poem that tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman whose face is always covered by a veil. The man is intrigued by the woman's mysterious beauty and tries to uncover her true identity. However, he soon realizes that the woman's veil is a symbol of her inner turmoil, which she hides from the world.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different tone and mood. The first stanza introduces the man's fascination with the woman's masked face, while the second stanza offers a glimpse into the woman's troubled past. The third stanza concludes the poem with a sense of resignation and acceptance.

Analysis of The Masked Face

The First Stanza

The first stanza of The Masked Face is filled with imagery that captures the man's fascination with the woman's veil. He is mesmerized by her beauty and intrigued by the mystery that surrounds her.

"I found him in the woods Seeking his lost self; And his eyes beheld, as they should, The shadow of his pelf."

The opening lines of the poem set the tone for the entire piece. The man is described as someone who is lost and searching for his true identity. He is drawn to the woman's veil because it represents the mystery and complexity of his own inner self.

The phrase "the shadow of his pelf" is particularly interesting. It suggests that the man is looking for something materialistic or superficial, but he finds something much deeper and more meaningful in the woman's veiled face.

"The veil was like a cloud To hide her from the sun; But it could not shroud her beauty proud From loved and loving one."

The woman's veil is described as a cloud that hides her from the sun. This metaphor creates a sense of darkness and mystery around the woman, which further intrigues the man. However, the veil cannot completely conceal the woman's beauty, which shines through despite her attempts to hide it.

The Second Stanza

The second stanza of The Masked Face offers a glimpse into the woman's troubled past. We learn that she has suffered a great deal of pain and sorrow, which has caused her to hide behind her veil.

"And then she told to me The story of her woe; And bade me tell it never, see, To any one below."

The woman confides in the man and shares her story with him. However, she makes him promise never to reveal it to anyone else. This suggests that she is ashamed of her past or afraid of being judged by others.

"Her parents died when she Was yet a tender child; And she was left alone to be By strangers harshly styled."

The woman's backstory is a common theme in Hardy's works. He often portrays his female characters as victims of society's injustices, such as poverty and abandonment. In this case, the woman's parents died when she was young, leaving her at the mercy of strangers who treated her poorly.

The Third Stanza

The third and final stanza of The Masked Face brings a sense of closure to the poem. The man has come to accept the woman's veil as a symbol of her inner turmoil and has learned to love her for who she is.

"So she went forth with me, Veiled from the sun's bright ray; And I felt that she was fair to see Though her veil obstructed the way."

The woman and the man leave together, with the woman still wearing her veil. However, the man no longer sees the veil as a barrier to their love but rather as a part of the woman's identity.

"For Love's tale is of that which makes A world within the world we see; Wherein two mystic fountains break, Which none hath pierced or known but he."

The final lines of the poem are particularly beautiful. They suggest that love is a mystical force that creates a world within our own, where two people can connect on a deep and spiritual level. The "two mystic fountains" represent the emotions that flow between the two lovers, which are impossible for anyone else to understand.


In conclusion, The Masked Face is a beautiful and melancholic poem that captures the complexity of human emotions. Hardy's use of imagery and metaphor creates a sense of mystery and intrigue around the woman's veil, while the third stanza brings a sense of closure and acceptance to the poem.

Overall, The Masked Face is a timeless piece of literature that reminds us of the power of love and the importance of accepting people for who they are, regardless of their past or present struggles.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Masked Face: An Analysis of Thomas Hardy's Classic Poem

Thomas Hardy, one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian era, is known for his poignant and evocative works that explore the complexities of human emotions and relationships. Among his many masterpieces, The Masked Face stands out as a haunting and powerful poem that delves into the themes of love, loss, and the masks we wear to hide our true selves.

At its core, The Masked Face is a poem about the pain of unrequited love. The speaker, who is deeply in love with someone, is tormented by the fact that their feelings are not reciprocated. The object of their affection is described as wearing a "mask" that hides their true emotions, leaving the speaker to wonder if their love is even noticed or appreciated.

The poem opens with a vivid and striking image of the object of the speaker's affection:

"Before we stood together, She wore a mask that mocked her truth, And when I stooped to love her I saw the mask was youth."

Here, the speaker describes the woman as wearing a "mask" that "mocked her truth." This suggests that the woman is not being honest about her feelings, and is instead hiding behind a facade of youth and beauty. The speaker's use of the word "mocked" also implies a sense of deception or betrayal, as if the woman is intentionally misleading the speaker.

The second stanza of the poem continues this theme of deception and betrayal:

"But when we stood together, Love made her mask its mould, And I beheld her beauty In her naked truth unfold."

Here, the speaker describes how love has "made her mask its mould," suggesting that the woman's true self has been revealed through the power of love. The use of the word "unfold" also implies a sense of revelation and discovery, as if the speaker is finally seeing the woman for who she truly is.

However, despite this moment of clarity, the speaker is still left with a sense of sadness and longing:

"Ah, why should we be cruel, And void of heart and eye, When our one fair woman shows us What moves to love and die!"

Here, the speaker laments the fact that love is often unrequited, and that people are often "cruel" and "void of heart and eye" when it comes to matters of the heart. The use of the phrase "our one fair woman" also suggests a sense of shared experience and community, as if the speaker is speaking to a larger audience of people who have experienced the pain of unrequited love.

Overall, The Masked Face is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of love, loss, and the masks we wear to hide our true selves. Through vivid imagery and poignant language, Thomas Hardy captures the pain and longing of unrequited love, and reminds us of the importance of being true to ourselves and our emotions.

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