'No Buyers' by Thomas Hardy

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A Load of brushes and baskets and cradles and chairs
Labours along the street in the rain:
With it a man, a woman, a pony with whiteybrown hairs. --
The man foots in front of the horse with a shambling sway
At a slower tread than a funeral train,
While to a dirge-like tune he chants his wares,
Swinging a Turk's-head brush (in a drum-major's way
When the bandsmen march and play).

A yard from the back of the man is the whiteybrown pony's nose:
He mirrors his master in every item of pace and pose:
He stops when the man stops, without being told,
And seems to be eased by a pause; too plainly he's old,
Indeed, not strength enough shows
To steer the disjointed waggon straight,
Which wriggles left and right in a rambling line,
Deflected thus by its own warp and weight,
And pushing the pony with it in each incline.

The woman walks on the pavement verge,
Parallel to the man:
She wears an apron white and wide in span,
And carries a like Turk's-head, but more in nursing-wise:
Now and then she joins in his dirge,
But as if her thoughts were on distant things,
The rain clams her apron till it clings. --
So, step by step, they move with their merchandize,
And nobody buys.

Editor 1 Interpretation

No Buyers: A Critical Interpretation

Thomas Hardy’s No Buyers is a poem that has been subject to a range of interpretations, from a commentary on the decline of rural life to a reflection on the futility of existence. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various themes and motifs present in the poem, as well as contextualize it within the larger body of Hardy’s work.


Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet who rose to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th century. Born in 1840 in Dorset, England, he worked as an architect before turning to writing full-time. His novels, such as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, were celebrated for their vivid descriptions of rural life and their exploration of the human condition. Hardy’s poetry, on the other hand, was often more introspective and personal, reflecting his own struggles with faith, love, and mortality.

No Buyers was published in 1898 as part of Hardy’s collection Wessex Poems and Other Verses. The poem tells the story of a farmer who is trying to sell his goods in a market that has been deserted by buyers. As the day wears on and no one shows up, the farmer becomes increasingly frustrated and disheartened. The poem ends on a bleak note, with the farmer packing up his goods and trudging home, defeated.


One of the central themes of No Buyers is the decline of rural life in England. Throughout the poem, Hardy paints a picture of a once-thriving market that has now fallen into disuse. The fact that the farmer has to “lay his produce out to wither” suggests that there is not even enough demand to justify bringing the goods home. This sense of decay and abandonment is also reflected in the description of the marketplace as “bare” and “squalid”, with “carts and wagons” lying “idle in rows”.

At the same time, however, No Buyers is also a meditation on the human condition. The farmer’s frustration and despair at being unable to sell his goods can be read as a metaphor for the larger struggle of existence. In this reading, the farmer represents all of us, trying to make a living in a world that seems indifferent to our efforts. The fact that he is alone, with “not a soul to meet him” as he makes his way home, reinforces this sense of isolation and alienation.


One of the most striking motifs in No Buyers is the use of weather imagery. Throughout the poem, Hardy uses descriptions of the sky and the weather to evoke a sense of mood and atmosphere. For example, the “dull sky” in the opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, suggesting a sense of gloom and foreboding. Similarly, the “heavy heat” in the third stanza creates a sense of stifling, oppressive atmosphere, mirroring the farmer’s own sense of frustration and despair.

Another important motif in No Buyers is the use of repetition. Hardy repeats certain phrases and words throughout the poem, such as “no buyers” and “not a soul to meet him”. This repetition creates a sense of rhythm and structure, but it also serves to emphasize the farmer’s sense of isolation and loneliness. By repeating these phrases, Hardy reinforces the idea that the farmer is completely alone in his struggle, with no one to turn to for help or support.


So what does No Buyers mean? Is it a commentary on the decline of rural England, or a reflection on the futility of existence? The truth is, it’s probably both. Like many of Hardy’s poems, No Buyers is multi-layered and complex, with multiple themes and motifs intertwining to create a rich and nuanced work of art.

At its core, however, No Buyers is a poem about human struggle. Whether we interpret the farmer’s plight as a metaphor for the decline of rural life or the struggle of existence itself, the poem speaks to the universal human experience of trying to make our way in a world that can often seem hostile and indifferent.


In conclusion, No Buyers is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the enduring themes of human struggle and the decline of rural life. Through its use of weather imagery, repetition, and carefully crafted language, the poem creates a sense of atmosphere and mood that is both haunting and beautiful. As with much of Hardy’s work, No Buyers invites us to reflect on our own lives and struggles, and to find meaning in the face of uncertainty and despair.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

No Buyers: A Masterpiece of Irony and Social Criticism

Thomas Hardy, one of the greatest English poets of the Victorian era, is known for his poignant and powerful poems that explore the complexities of human nature and society. Among his many works, No Buyers stands out as a masterpiece of irony and social criticism, a poem that exposes the harsh realities of poverty and inequality in a capitalist society.

At first glance, No Buyers seems like a simple and straightforward poem, with its short and repetitive lines that describe a market scene in a rural town. The speaker, presumably a vendor, tries to sell his goods to the passersby, but no one seems interested. The refrain "No buyers" echoes throughout the poem, emphasizing the speaker's frustration and despair. However, a closer reading reveals that No Buyers is much more than a lamentation of a failed business venture. It is a scathing critique of the capitalist system that perpetuates poverty and exploitation.

The first clue to the poem's deeper meaning lies in the setting. The market scene takes place in a "lonely townland," a remote and isolated area that is far from the bustling cities and industrial centers of the Victorian era. This suggests that the people in this town are poor and marginalized, living on the fringes of society. The fact that the speaker is trying to sell his goods on the roadside, rather than in a proper market, also indicates that he is not a wealthy merchant, but a struggling farmer or craftsman who is trying to make ends meet.

The second clue is the nature of the goods that the speaker is trying to sell. He offers "apples, quinces, lemons, / One that's striped, another that's dimpled / Like what are fairies' lute-bells." These are not the products of industrialization or mass production, but the fruits of nature and human labor. They are unique and precious, each with its own flavor and texture. However, in a capitalist society, such goods have little value, as they cannot be standardized, commodified, and sold for profit. The speaker's frustration is not just about the lack of buyers, but about the devaluation of his goods and his labor.

The third clue is the reaction of the passersby. They do not just ignore the speaker, but they actively reject him and his goods. They "turn their heads as they walk on / And the vendor's cry is withdrawn." This suggests that they are not just indifferent to his plight, but hostile to it. They see him as a nuisance, a beggar, or a threat to their own interests. They do not want to engage with him or his goods, but to distance themselves from him and his poverty. This is a common attitude in a capitalist society, where the poor are often blamed for their own misfortune and stigmatized as lazy, immoral, or undeserving.

The fourth clue is the irony of the refrain "No buyers." On the surface, it seems like a simple statement of fact, a lamentation of the speaker's failure to sell his goods. However, it also implies a deeper meaning, a critique of the capitalist system that creates a world where there are "no buyers" for the products of human labor and creativity. In a capitalist society, the value of goods and services is determined not by their usefulness or beauty, but by their exchange value, their ability to generate profit for the owners of capital. This means that many valuable goods and services, such as education, healthcare, culture, and nature, are undervalued or neglected, while many useless or harmful goods and services, such as weapons, luxury goods, and speculative finance, are overvalued and promoted.

The fifth clue is the final stanza of the poem, which shifts the focus from the speaker to the landscape. The speaker says that "The sun goes down in a cold pale flare / And lights up the evening star / In a cold pale flare." This suggests that the speaker's failure to sell his goods is not just a personal tragedy, but a symptom of a larger crisis that affects the whole world. The "cold pale flare" of the sunset and the evening star symbolize the bleakness and emptiness of a world that is dominated by capitalism, a world where the natural and human resources are exploited and depleted, and the spiritual and cultural values are ignored and forgotten.

In conclusion, No Buyers is a masterpiece of irony and social criticism that exposes the harsh realities of poverty and inequality in a capitalist society. Through its simple and repetitive lines, the poem conveys a complex and profound message about the devaluation of human labor and creativity, the stigmatization of the poor and marginalized, and the destruction of nature and culture. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and mind of anyone who cares about justice, compassion, and beauty, and who seeks to challenge the dominant ideology of capitalism and create a better world for all.

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