My nickname for Hardy’s “The Voice” is “The Misty Woman”. It is a poem about a woman coming in and out of his clear recollections – about a woman moving in and out of the mist.
In ‘The Voice’ Thomas Hardy hears his dead wife, Emma, calling to him, saying that now she is as Hardy first knew her at their meeting in March 1870 in Cornwall where Emma lived.
He questions whether it really is Emma that he hears, or is it only the breeze blowing that he mistakes for her voice.
His first wife’s death is the subject of most of the verses in Hardy’s Poems 1912-13.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.
I first tried to get to grips with this poem over forty years ago when I studied it for A Level English Literature. Since then I have taught it to students studying on GCSE, A Level, and Degree courses. In the past twenty years my academic interests have moved from literature to language. What I want to do in a series of three postings is to show how a sharper attention to the structure of the language can enhance our understanding of the poem.
In this first post I want to devote my attention solely to the first line
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me
Here Hardy is baring his emotion, and setting up the tension between reality and illusion that he agonises over throughout the rest of the poem. Continue reading “The Misty Woman (1 of 3)”