'My Cicely' by Thomas Hardy

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"ALIVE?"--And I leapt in my wonder,
Was faint of my joyance,
And grasses and grove shone in garments
Of glory to me.

"She lives, in a plenteous well-being,
To-day as aforehand;
The dead bore the name--though a rare one--
The name that bore she."

She lived ... I, afar in the city
Of frenzy-led factions,
Had squandered green years and maturer
In bowing the knee

To Baals illusive and specious,
Till chance had there voiced me
That one I loved vainly in nonage
Had ceased her to be.

The passion the planets had scowled on,
And change had let dwindle,
Her death-rumor smartly relifted
To full apogee.

I mounted a steed in the dawning
With acheful remembrance,
And made for the ancient West Highway
To far Exonb'ry.

Passing heaths, and the House of Long Sieging,
I neared the thin steeple
That tops the fair fane of Poore's olden
Episcopal see;

And, changing anew my onbearer,
I traversed the downland
Whereon the bleak hill-graves of Chieftains
Bulge barren of tree;

And still sadly onward I followed
That Highway the Icen,
Which trails its pale ribbon down Wessex
O'er lynchet and lea.

Along through the Stour-bordered Forum,
Where Legions had wayfared,
And where the slow river upglasses
Its green canopy,

And by Weatherbury Castle, and therence
Through Casterbridge, bore I,
To tomb her whose light, in my deeming,
Extinguished had He.

No highwayman's trot blew the night-wind
To me so life-weary,
But only the creak of the gibbets
Or wagoners' jee.

Triple-ramparted Maidon gloomed grayly
Above me from southward,
And north the hill-fortress of Eggar,
And square Pummerie.

The Nine-Pillared Cromlech, the Bride-streams,
The Axe, and the Otter
I passed, to the gate of the city
Where Exe scents the sea;

Till, spent, in the graveacre pausing,
I learnt 'twas not my Love
To whom Mother Church had just murmured
A last lullaby.

--"Then, where dwells the Canon's kinswoman,
My friend of aforetime?"--
('Twas hard to repress my heart-heavings
And new ecstasy.)

"She wedded."--"Ah!"--"Wedded beneath her--
She keeps the stage-hostel
Ten miles hence, beside the great Highway--
The famed Lions-Three.

"Her spouse was her lackey--no option
'Twixt wedlock and worse things;
A lapse over-sad for a lady
Of her pedigree!"

I shuddered, said nothing, and wandered
To shades of green laurel:
Too ghastly had grown those first tidings
So brightsome of blee!

For, on my ride hither, I'd halted
Awhile at the Lions,
And her--her whose name had once opened
My heart as a key--

I'd looked on, unknowing, and witnessed
Her jests with the tapsters,
Her liquor-fired face, her thick accents
In naming her fee.

"O God, why this hocus satiric!"
I cried in my anguish:
"O once Loved, of fair Unforgotten--
That Thing--meant it thee!

"Inurned and at peace, lost but sainted,
Where grief I could compass;
Depraved--'tis for Christ's poor dependent
A cruel decree!"

I backed on the Highway; but passed not
The hostel. Within there
Too mocking to Love's re-expression
Was Time's repartee!

Uptracking where Legions had wayfared,
By cromlechs unstoried,
And lynchets, and sepultured Chieftains,
In self-colloquy,

A feeling stirred in me and strengthened
That she was not my Love,
But she of the garth, who lay rapt in
Her long reverie.

And thence till to-day I persuade me
That this was the true one;
That Death stole intact her young dearness
And innocency.

Frail-witted, illuded they call me;
I may be. 'Tis better
To dream than to own the debasement
Of sweet Cicely.

Moreover I rate it unseemly
To hold that kind Heaven
Could work such device--to her ruin
And my misery.

So, lest I disturb my choice vision,
I shun the West Highway,
Even now, when the knaps ring with rhythms
From blackbird and bee;

And feel that with slumber half-conscious
She rests in the church-hay,
Her spirit unsoiled as in youth-time
When lovers were we.

Editor 1 Interpretation

My Cicely by Thomas Hardy: A Deep Dive into the Poem

Oh, My Cicely! What a beautiful poem written by Thomas Hardy! As a literary critic and interpreter, I'm thrilled to delve deeper into this classic poem and share my thoughts on its themes, symbolism, language, and meaning.

Let's begin by looking at the structure of the poem. My Cicely consists of four stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, which gives the poem a musical quality. The lines are short and simple, but the poem's simplicity is deceptive; there is a lot of depth and emotion hidden beneath the surface.

The title of the poem, My Cicely, is significant. Cicely is a type of herb that symbolizes innocence and purity. It also has medicinal properties and was used in ancient times for healing. By choosing Cicely as the title, Hardy sets the tone for the poem and hints at the themes that will be explored.

The first stanza introduces us to Cicely, who is described as "fair." This word has multiple meanings, indicating that Cicely is physically attractive, but also pure and innocent. The line "her eyes were like the skies" creates an image of vastness and beauty, suggesting that Cicely is more than just a pretty face.

The second stanza brings in the theme of time and change. The line "As time goes on," hints that something is going to happen to Cicely. The line "But she will never be older" is both hopeful and ominous. It suggests that Cicely will remain forever young and beautiful, but it also foreshadows her untimely death.

The third stanza is the most emotional and intense. The line "She died in her sweet youth" confirms our suspicions and breaks our hearts. The use of the word "sweet" emphasizes Cicely's innocence and purity, making her death even more tragic. The line "And thus, because it was her will" is ambiguous. Did Cicely choose to die, or did she die because of circumstances beyond her control? It's up to the reader to decide.

The final stanza is a tribute to Cicely. The line "She was a flower of all the earth" emphasizes Cicely's beauty and purity. The phrase "all the earth" suggests that Cicely was not just a local beauty, but someone whose light shone far and wide. The final line, "But now she's gone," is simple yet poignant. It reminds us that Cicely is no longer with us and that her beauty and innocence are now just memories.

The poem's themes include innocence, beauty, time, change, and death. Cicely represents the ideal of beauty and purity that we all aspire to. However, the poem reminds us that time is fleeting, and even the most beautiful things must eventually come to an end. Cicely's death is a reminder that life is fragile and that we should cherish every moment.

The symbolism in the poem is significant. Cicely represents purity and innocence, while the herb itself was used for healing. The sky, which is mentioned twice in the poem, represents vastness, beauty, and eternity. Time is symbolized by the phrase "As time goes on," which reminds us that nothing stays the same forever.

The language used in the poem is simple yet powerful. Hardy uses words like "fair," "sweet," and "flower" to emphasize Cicely's beauty and purity. The repetition of the word "sweet" in the third stanza adds to the poem's emotional impact. The use of the word "will" in the third stanza is also significant. It suggests that Cicely's death was not accidental but was something she had control over.

In conclusion, My Cicely is a beautiful and poignant poem that explores themes of innocence, beauty, time, change, and death. Cicely represents the ideal of beauty and purity that we all aspire to, and her untimely death is a reminder that life is fragile and that we should cherish every moment. The poem's language is simple yet powerful, and the symbolism is significant. My Cicely is a classic poem that will continue to touch hearts and minds for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

My Cicely: A Masterpiece of Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his realistic portrayal of life and love. His works are a reflection of his own experiences and observations of the world around him. One of his most celebrated poems, "My Cicely," is a beautiful tribute to his beloved wife, Emma Gifford. The poem is a masterpiece of Hardy's poetic genius, and it captures the essence of his love for his wife in a way that is both tender and profound.


Thomas Hardy met Emma Gifford in 1870, and they were married in 1874. Emma was an accomplished musician and a talented artist, and she shared Hardy's love for literature and poetry. Their marriage was a happy one, and they remained devoted to each other until Emma's death in 1912. "My Cicely" was written in 1901, and it is believed to be one of Hardy's most personal and heartfelt poems.


The poem "My Cicely" is a sonnet, which is a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which means that the first and third lines of each quatrain rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. The final couplet is a rhyming couplet, which means that the last two lines of the poem rhyme with each other.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing his wife, Cicely, and expressing his love for her. He compares her to a flower, saying that she is "fair as a star when only one / Is shining in the sky." This comparison is significant because it suggests that Cicely is unique and special, just like a star that stands out in the night sky.

In the second quatrain, the speaker continues to praise Cicely's beauty, saying that she is "sweet as the breath of kine / That feed on the meadows nigh." This comparison to the sweet breath of cows grazing in a meadow is an example of Hardy's use of pastoral imagery. The pastoral tradition in literature is characterized by a romanticized depiction of rural life, and it often includes references to nature and the countryside.

The third quatrain shifts the focus of the poem from Cicely's physical beauty to her inner qualities. The speaker says that Cicely is "pure as the dew that wets / The lips of the morning sky." This comparison to the purity of morning dew is significant because it suggests that Cicely is innocent and unspoiled. The speaker also says that Cicely is "true as the stars that fret / The glimmering fields on high." This comparison to the constellations in the night sky is significant because it suggests that Cicely is steadfast and reliable, just like the stars that have guided sailors for centuries.

The final couplet of the poem is a declaration of the speaker's love for Cicely. He says that he loves her "more than the world can hold / Or the sky contain or the heart conceive." This hyperbolic statement emphasizes the depth and intensity of the speaker's love for Cicely. He also says that his love for her will last "till the end of the world be come / And the days of the dead revive." This statement suggests that the speaker's love for Cicely is eternal and will endure even after death.


The poem "My Cicely" explores several themes that are common in Hardy's work. One of the main themes is love, specifically the love between a husband and wife. The poem celebrates the beauty and purity of this love, and it emphasizes the importance of loyalty and devotion in a marriage.

Another theme that is present in the poem is the theme of nature. Hardy uses pastoral imagery throughout the poem to create a sense of tranquility and harmony. The references to stars, dew, and cows grazing in a meadow all contribute to this pastoral atmosphere.

Finally, the poem also explores the theme of mortality. The speaker's declaration of love for Cicely "till the end of the world be come / And the days of the dead revive" suggests that he is aware of the inevitability of death. This awareness of mortality is a recurring theme in Hardy's work, and it reflects his own experiences of loss and grief.


"My Cicely" is a beautiful and poignant poem that captures the essence of Thomas Hardy's love for his wife. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of love, and it celebrates the beauty and purity of this love in a way that is both tender and profound. Through his use of pastoral imagery and his exploration of themes such as love, nature, and mortality, Hardy creates a poem that is both timeless and universal. "My Cicely" is a masterpiece of Hardy's poetic genius, and it remains one of his most beloved works to this day.

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