'Her Immortality' by Thomas Hardy

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UPON a noon I pilgrimed through
A pasture, mile by mile,
Unto the place where I last saw
My dead Love's living smile.

And sorrowing I lay me down
Upon the heated sod:
It seemed as if my body pressed
The very ground she trod.

I lay, and thought; and in a trance
She came and stood me by--
The same, even to the marvellous ray
That used to light her eye.

"You draw me, and I come to you,
My faithful one," she said,
In voice that had the moving tone
It bore in maidenhead.

She said: "'Tis seven years since I died:
Few now remember me;
My husband clasps another bride;
My children mothers she.

My brethren, sisters, and my friends
Care not to meet my sprite:
Who prized me most I did not know
Till I passed down from sight."

I said: "My days are lonely here;
I need thy smile alway:
I'll use this night my ball or blade,
And join thee ere the day."

A tremor stirred her tender lips,
Which parted to dissuade:
"That cannot be, O friend," she cried;
"Think, I am but a Shade!

"A Shade but in its mindful ones
Has immortality;
By living, me you keep alive,
By dying you slay me.

"In you resides my single power
Of sweet continuance here;
On your fidelity I count
Through many a coming year."

--I started through me at her plight,
So suddenly confessed:
Dismissing late distaste for life,
I craved its bleak unrest.

"I will not die, my One of all!--
To lengthen out thy days
I'll guard me from minutest harms
That may invest my ways!"

She smiled and went. Since then she comes
Oft when her birth-moon climbs,
Or at the seasons' ingresses
Or anniversary times;

But grows my grief. When I surcease,
Through whom alone lives she,
Ceases my Love, her words, her ways,
Never again to be!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Her Immortality: Thomas Hardy's Masterpiece

Thomas Hardy, one of the most renowned writers of the Victorian era, was a master of both prose and poetry. While he is perhaps best known for his novels, such as Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, his poetry is equally powerful and insightful. One of his most famous poems, "Her Immortality," is a haunting meditation on the nature of death and the immortality of art.

At first glance, the poem appears to be a simple elegy for a young woman who has died. The speaker mourns her passing, but also celebrates her enduring legacy in the form of her poetry. "Her Immortality" is divided into three stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of the woman's life and work.

In the first stanza, the speaker describes the woman's youth and beauty, as well as her talent for poetry. He paints a vivid picture of her as a "maiden fair" with "bright eyes" and a "graceful form." This description is important because it helps to establish the woman's identity and character. She is not just any woman who has died, but a uniquely talented and beautiful young poet.

The second stanza is perhaps the most powerful and moving of the three. Here, the speaker reflects on the woman's death and the pain and sorrow it has caused. He describes her as lying "cold and dead" in her grave, and imagines her soul as wandering in the afterlife. But even in death, the woman's poetry lives on. The speaker compares her words to "a song remote" that can still be heard in the world. This is a powerful metaphor, suggesting that the woman's art has a life of its own, separate from her physical body.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close on a note of quiet reflection. The speaker imagines the woman's poetry as a kind of immortality, something that will live on long after she herself has passed into oblivion. He speaks of her words as being "unconsciously subversive" and "ineffable," suggesting that they contain a kind of mysterious power that transcends ordinary language. In this way, Hardy suggests that art has the power to create a kind of immortality for its creators, allowing them to live on in the memories and imaginations of others.

But what is it that makes "Her Immortality" such a powerful and enduring work of art? Part of it is Hardy's masterful use of language and imagery. His descriptions of the woman's beauty and the pain of her death are poetic and evocative, drawing the reader into the poem's world. But there is also a deeper meaning to the poem, one that touches on some of the most profound questions of human existence. What is the nature of death? What does it mean to be remembered after we are gone? And how can art help us to transcend our mortal limitations?

In many ways, "Her Immortality" is a meditation on these themes, exploring the ways in which art can help us to confront the inevitability of our own mortality. By celebrating the woman's poetry as a kind of immortality, Hardy suggests that art has the power to transcend both time and space, creating a connection between the living and the dead. In this way, the poem is not just a mournful elegy for a lost life, but a celebration of the enduring power of art and its ability to connect us across the boundaries of life and death.

In conclusion, "Her Immortality" is a masterpiece of Victorian poetry, a haunting and evocative meditation on the power of art and the enduring legacy of those who create it. Through his evocative descriptions and powerful metaphors, Thomas Hardy creates a world in which the dead continue to live through their art, and in which the power of language and imagination can transcend even the most profound of human limitations. Whether read as a simple elegy or a profound meditation, "Her Immortality" stands as one of Hardy's greatest achievements and a testament to the enduring power of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium for expressing the deepest emotions and thoughts of the human mind. It is a form of art that transcends time and space, and has the power to touch the hearts of people across generations. One such timeless piece of poetry is "Her Immortality" by Thomas Hardy. This poem is a beautiful tribute to the memory of a loved one who has passed away, and explores the theme of immortality in a unique and profound way.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the beauty of the natural world around him. He talks about the "sunset fire" and the "dewy grass" that surrounds him, and how it reminds him of the person he has lost. The imagery used in these lines is vivid and evocative, and sets the tone for the rest of the poem.

The speaker then goes on to describe the person he has lost, and how she was a part of the natural world. He talks about how she was "a part of the earth's green mantle" and how she "mingled her life with the sap of the trees". This imagery is powerful, as it suggests that the person was not just a part of the natural world, but was actually a part of its life force. This idea of interconnectedness between humans and nature is a recurring theme in Hardy's poetry.

The speaker then goes on to describe how the person he has lost has become immortal. He talks about how her "soul has gone into the making of the world", and how she has become a part of the eternal cycle of life and death. This idea of immortality is not a conventional one, as it does not involve an afterlife or a belief in a higher power. Instead, it is a more naturalistic view of immortality, where the person lives on through their impact on the world around them.

The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as the speaker contemplates the nature of life and death. He talks about how "life is but a parting breath", and how death is "but a passing through". These lines suggest that life and death are not separate entities, but are instead part of a larger cycle of existence. This idea is similar to the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, where death is not the end, but rather a transition to a new form of existence.

The speaker then goes on to describe how the person he has lost has become a part of this larger cycle of existence. He talks about how she has become "a part of the wind and rain", and how her "spirit is one with the earth". These lines suggest that the person has become a part of the natural world in a very literal sense, and that her essence is now a part of the elements that make up the world around us.

The poem ends with the speaker expressing his gratitude for having known the person he has lost. He talks about how her memory will live on in his heart, and how he will always remember her. These lines are poignant and heartfelt, and serve as a reminder of the power of love and the impact that one person can have on another.

In conclusion, "Her Immortality" is a beautiful and profound poem that explores the theme of immortality in a unique and naturalistic way. The poem suggests that immortality is not something that is bestowed upon us by a higher power, but is instead something that we achieve through our impact on the world around us. The poem also explores the interconnectedness between humans and nature, and suggests that we are all part of a larger cycle of existence. Overall, "Her Immortality" is a timeless piece of poetry that will continue to touch the hearts of people for generations to come.

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