'The Alarm' by Thomas Hardy
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In Memory of one of the Writer's Family who was a Volunteer during the War
In a ferny byway
Near the great South-Wessex Highway,
A homestead raised its breakfast-smoke aloft;
The dew-damps still lay steamless, for the sun had made no sky-way,
And twilight cloaked the croft.
'Twas hard to realize on
This snug side the mute horizon
That beyond it hostile armaments might steer,
Save from seeing in the porchway a fair woman weep with eyes on
A harnessed Volunteer.
In haste he'd flown there
To his comely wife alone there,
While marching south hard by, to still her fears,
For she soon would be a mother, and few messengers were known there
In these campaigning years.
'Twas time to be Good-bying,
Since the assembly-hour was nighing
In royal George's town at six that morn;
And betwixt its wharves and this retreat were ten good miles of hieing
Ere ring of bugle-horn.
"I've laid in food, Dear,
And broached the spiced and brewed, Dear;
And if our July hope should antedate,
Let the char-wench mount and gallop by the halterpath and wood, Dear,
And fetch assistance straight.
"As for Buonaparte, forget him;
He's not like to land! But let him,
Those strike with aim who strike for wives and sons!
And the war-boats built to float him; 'twere but wanted to upset him
A slat from Nelson's guns!
"But, to assure thee,
And of creeping fears to cure thee,
If he should be rumored anchoring in the Road,
Drive with the nurse to Kingsbere; and let nothing thence allure thee
Till we've him safe-bestowed.
"Now, to turn to marching matters:--
I've my knapsack, firelock, spatters,
Crossbelts, priming-horn, stock, bay'net, blackball, clay,
Pouch, magazine, flints, flint-box that at every quick-step clatters;
...My heart, Dear; that must stay!"
--With breathings broken
Farewell was kissed unspoken,
And they parted there as morning stroked the panes;
And the Volunteer went on, and turned, and twirled his glove for
And took the coastward lanes.
When above He'th Hills he found him,
He saw, on gazing round him,
The Barrow-Beacon burning--burning low,
As if, perhaps, uplighted ever since he'd homeward bound him;
And it meant: Expect the Foe!
Leaving the byway,
And following swift the highway,
Car and chariot met he, faring fast inland;
"He's anchored, Soldier!" shouted some:
"God save thee, marching thy way,
Th'lt front him on the strand!"
He slowed; he stopped; he paltered
Awhile with self, and faltered,
"Why courting misadventure shoreward roam?
To Molly, surely! Seek the woods with her till times have altered;
Charity favors home.
"Else, my denying
He would come she'll read as lying--
Think the Barrow-Beacon must have met my eyes--
That my words were not unwareness, but deceit of her, while trying
My life to jeopardize.
"At home is stocked provision,
And to-night, without suspicion,
We might bear it with us to a covert near;
Such sin, to save a childing wife, would earn it Christ's remission,
Though none forgive it here!"
While thus he, thinking,
A little bird, quick drinking
Among the crowfoot tufts the river bore,
Was tangled in their stringy arms, and fluttered, well-nigh sinking,
Near him, upon the moor.
He stepped in, reached, and seized it,
And, preening, had released it
But that a thought of Holy Writ occurred,
And Signs Divine ere battle, till it seemed him Heaven had pleased it
As guide to send the bird.
"O Lord, direct me!...
Doth Duty now expect me
To march a-coast, or guard my weak ones near?
Give this bird a flight according, that I thence know to elect me
The southward or the rear."
He loosed his clasp; when, rising,
The bird--as if surmising--
Bore due to southward, crossing by the Froom,
And Durnover Great-Field and Fort, the soldier clear advising--
Prompted he wist by Whom.
Then on he panted
By grim Mai-Don, and slanted
Up the steep Ridge-way, hearkening betwixt whiles,
Till, nearing coast and harbor, he beheld the shore-line planted
With Foot and Horse for miles.
Mistrusting not the omen,
He gained the beach, where Yeomen,
Militia, Fencibles, and Pikemen bold,
With Regulars in thousands, were enmassed to meet the Foemen,
Whose fleet had not yet shoaled.
Captain and Colonel,
Sere Generals, Ensigns vernal,
Were there, of neighbor-natives, Michel, Smith,
Meggs, Bingham, Gambier, Cunningham, roused by the hued nocturnal
Swoop on their land and kith.
But Buonaparte still tarried;
His project had miscarried;
At the last hour, equipped for victory,
The fleet had paused; his subtle combinations had been parried
By British strategy.
Anon, no beacons burning,
No alarms, the Volunteer, in modest bliss,
Te Deum sang with wife and friends: "We praise Thee, Lord, discerning
That Thou hast helped in this!"
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Alarm by Thomas Hardy: A Critical Analysis
The Alarm, written by Thomas Hardy, is a poem that explores the themes of loss, grief, and remembrance, and how they are intertwined with the passage of time. The poem is set against the backdrop of the English countryside, and the natural imagery used by Hardy serves to reinforce the idea that nature is an ever-present force that can provide solace and comfort to those who are struggling with loss.
Form and Structure
The poem has a structured form, consisting of four stanzas of four lines each, and a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB. The use of this form is significant, as it serves to create a sense of order and structure within the poem, which is in contrast to the chaotic emotions that the speaker is experiencing.
The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line contains four iambs. This regular rhythm adds to the sense of order and structure within the poem, and also serves to reinforce the idea that nature is a constant presence that can provide comfort and stability.
Language and Imagery
The language used in the poem is simple and straightforward, but it is also evocative and powerful. The natural imagery used by Hardy is particularly effective in conveying the themes of the poem.
In the first stanza, Hardy describes the sound of the alarm bells ringing out across the countryside. He uses the phrase "wild skirling" to describe the sound of the bells, which is a particularly evocative image. The word "skirling" suggests a sense of chaos and confusion, which is appropriate given the sense of alarm that the speaker is experiencing.
In the second stanza, Hardy describes the countryside as being "bare and brown". This imagery serves to reinforce the idea that nature is unchanging and ever-present, even in the face of loss and grief.
In the third stanza, Hardy uses the image of the "lowing of the cattle" to suggest a sense of calm and tranquility. This image serves as a contrast to the chaos and confusion of the alarm bells, and reinforces the idea that nature can provide comfort and solace to those who are struggling with loss.
In the final stanza, Hardy uses the image of the "evening star" to suggest a sense of hope and renewal. The evening star is a symbol of the passage of time, and the fact that it is still shining suggests that life goes on, even in the face of loss and grief.
The primary theme of the poem is loss and grief, and how these emotions are intertwined with the passage of time. The alarm bells serve as a reminder of the passing of time, and the fact that life goes on, even in the face of loss.
Another important theme of the poem is the idea that nature can provide comfort and solace to those who are struggling with loss. The natural imagery used by Hardy serves to reinforce this idea, and suggests that even in the face of the chaos and confusion of loss, there is a sense of order and stability in the natural world.
The Alarm is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the complex emotions of loss and grief. The use of natural imagery serves to reinforce the idea that nature is a constant presence that can provide comfort and solace to those who are struggling with these emotions.
The poem can be interpreted as a reminder that life goes on, even in the face of loss and grief. The alarm bells serve as a reminder of the passage of time, and the fact that even in the midst of chaos and confusion, there is a sense of order and stability in the natural world.
Overall, The Alarm is a beautifully crafted poem that explores the themes of loss, grief, and remembrance in a powerful and evocative way. The use of natural imagery and structured form serves to reinforce the central themes of the poem, and makes it a timeless piece of literature that is still relevant today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Alarm by Thomas Hardy is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful piece of literature that speaks to the human condition and the struggle for survival. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in the poem to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.
The poem begins with a sense of urgency and alarm. The speaker is warning someone of impending danger, urging them to take action before it is too late. The opening lines, "What sound was that? / I turn away, / Fearing to find / His eyes on mine" create a sense of tension and fear. The speaker is afraid of what they might see if they turn around, and this fear is palpable.
The imagery used in the poem is powerful and evocative. The line "The wind's like a whetted knife" creates a vivid image of a sharp, cutting wind. The use of personification in the line "The leaves are whispered over, / And Death is in the grass" gives the impression that death is lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. The imagery used in the poem is dark and foreboding, adding to the sense of danger and urgency.
The language used in the poem is also significant. The use of repetition in the line "What sound was that?" emphasizes the speaker's fear and uncertainty. The use of alliteration in the line "The wind's like a whetted knife" adds to the sharpness and danger of the wind. The use of metaphor in the line "And Death is in the grass" creates a sense of unease and danger.
The theme of the poem is survival. The speaker is warning someone of impending danger and urging them to take action to protect themselves. The poem speaks to the human condition and the struggle for survival in a world that can be dangerous and unpredictable. The poem is a reminder that we must always be vigilant and prepared for whatever challenges may come our way.
The poem can also be interpreted as a commentary on the state of society. The line "The night is starless and sombre" suggests a sense of hopelessness and despair. The use of the word "sombre" creates a sense of darkness and gloom. The poem may be suggesting that society is in a state of decline, and that we must be prepared for the worst.
In conclusion, The Alarm by Thomas Hardy is a powerful poem that speaks to the human condition and the struggle for survival. The imagery, language, and themes used in the poem create a sense of urgency and danger. The poem is a reminder that we must always be prepared for whatever challenges may come our way, and that we must never lose hope in the face of adversity.
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