'In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations"' by Thomas Hardy
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Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.
Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onwards the same
Though Dynasties pass.
Yonder a maid and her wight
Go whispering by:
War's annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.
Editor 1 Interpretation
In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations": A Literary Criticism
When it comes to the world of poetry, there are few names that can rival that of Thomas Hardy. Born in 1840 in Dorset, England, Hardy is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of the Victorian era. His works are renowned for their elegant style, their acute observations of the human condition, and their exploration of complex themes. And one of his most famous poems, In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations," is a prime example of his talent.
So what makes this poem so special? What is it that sets it apart from other works of its time? In this literary criticism, we will delve deep into the heart of this classic poem, exploring its themes, its structure, and its language, in order to understand its significance and its enduring appeal.
At its core, In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations" is a poem about war. Written in 1915, at the height of World War I, the poem reflects the sense of despair and disillusionment that many people felt during that time. But it is not just a simple anti-war poem. Rather, it delves into the deeper complexities of war and its effect on humanity.
One of the key themes of the poem is the futility of war. Hardy laments the fact that nations go to war, only to be destroyed in the end. He writes, "Only a man harrowing clods / In a slow silent walk / With an old horse that stumbles and nods / Half asleep as they stalk" (lines 1-4). Here, he paints a picture of a man and his horse, toiling in the fields, oblivious to the chaos and destruction that is taking place around them. This image serves as a reminder that, while wars may rage on, life goes on, and ultimately, it is only the people who suffer.
Another theme of the poem is the idea that war strips away our humanity. Hardy writes, "Their sons and their daughters / Were silver or steel, / And their blood ran as red / As their jerseys or heels" (lines 21-24). Here, he is highlighting the dehumanizing effect of war. When soldiers are sent to fight, they become nothing more than tools of war, stripped of their individuality and their humanity. This theme is echoed throughout the poem, as Hardy describes the soldiers as "automatons" and "machines."
In terms of its structure, In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations" is a sonnet. This means that it has 14 lines and is written in iambic pentameter. However, Hardy does not strictly adhere to the traditional sonnet form. Instead, he uses a variation of the Petrarchan sonnet, where the first eight lines (the octave) present a problem or question, and the last six lines (the sestet) provide a resolution or answer.
In the octave, Hardy sets the scene and introduces the problem: nations are breaking apart, people are suffering, and war is ravaging the land. But in the sestet, he provides a solution: nature will endure, and life will go on. By doing this, Hardy is able to bring a sense of hope to an otherwise bleak poem.
Of course, one of the most striking aspects of In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations" is its language. Hardy's use of imagery and figurative language is masterful, and it is what makes the poem so memorable.
One example of this is in the opening lines of the poem, where Hardy writes, "Only a man harrowing clods / In a slow silent walk / With an old horse that stumbles and nods / Half asleep as they stalk" (lines 1-4). Here, he is using imagery to create a sense of peace and serenity, in contrast to the chaos and destruction of war.
Another example is in the line, "Their hearts but drilled manholes / Through which at fierce intervals / Once more the figures come" (lines 9-11). Here, Hardy is using metaphor to describe the soldiers as "drilled manholes." This metaphor underscores the dehumanizing effect of war, reducing the soldiers to nothing more than empty vessels.
In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations" is a masterpiece of poetry, one that transcends its time and place to speak to the universal human experience. Through its themes of futility and dehumanization, its unique structure, and its masterful use of language, this poem remains as relevant today as it was over a century ago. In a world that still struggles with war and conflict, we would do well to heed Hardy's warning, and to remember that ultimately, it is only the people who suffer.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
In Time Of "The Breaking Of Nations": A Poem of Hope and Despair
Thomas Hardy's poem, "In Time Of The Breaking Of Nations," is a powerful and evocative work that speaks to the human experience of war and its aftermath. Written in 1915, at the height of World War I, the poem reflects the poet's deep sense of despair at the destruction and devastation wrought by the conflict, while also expressing a glimmer of hope for the future.
The poem is structured in four stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the "breaking of nations" and the "crash of empires" that is taking place. The second stanza focuses on the human toll of war, with images of "widows' tears" and "orphans' fears." The third stanza speaks to the futility of war, with the lines "War's annals will cloud into night / Ere their story die." Finally, the fourth stanza offers a glimmer of hope, with the image of a "new earth" rising from the ashes of the old.
At its core, "In Time Of The Breaking Of Nations" is a poem about the human cost of war. Hardy's use of vivid imagery and evocative language brings the horrors of war to life, painting a picture of a world torn apart by conflict. The opening lines of the poem, "Only a man harrowing clods / In a slow silent walk / With an old horse that stumbles and nods / Half asleep as they stalk," set the tone for the rest of the work, with their sense of weariness and despair.
Throughout the poem, Hardy uses a variety of literary devices to convey his message. The repetition of the phrase "breaking of nations" in the first stanza creates a sense of inevitability, as if the destruction of empires is a natural and unstoppable force. The use of alliteration in the second stanza, with its repeated "w" sounds in "widows' tears" and "war's worst woes," creates a sense of sorrow and mourning.
Perhaps the most powerful image in the poem is that of the "new earth" rising from the ashes of the old. This image speaks to the idea that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for the future. It suggests that while war may destroy the old world, it also creates the opportunity for something new and better to emerge.
Overall, "In Time Of The Breaking Of Nations" is a deeply moving and thought-provoking work that speaks to the human experience of war. It is a reminder of the terrible toll that conflict can take on individuals and societies, but also a testament to the resilience and hope of the human spirit. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of our own time, this poem serves as a powerful reminder of the need to work towards a more peaceful and just world.
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