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Extended commentary of 'I look into My Glass' by Thomas Hardy

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Introduction

I Look into my Glass: On the Title: Negligible information ? takes first line; a common feature. Themes: Time, The way that Time works, Age (emotional) Overall Structure: Three English quatrains, with an alternate rhyming scheme ? this makes it more concentrated than a typical English quatrain. This ?concentration? is a key feature; in both literal and emotional sense. It is a very short poem, but details a series of deep emotional reflections. Difficult language notes: * ?Glass? is an archaic (and now poetic) word for ?mirror?. * The phrase ?would God it came to pass? means ?I wish that God had done ?X?? or ?had let ?X? happen?. In the poem, he wishes that God had let his heart wither, in terms of emotional feeling, just as his body had. * ?Equanimity? means ?of calm temperament? ? to be at peace spiritually, mentally etc. First Stanza Notes: Hardy presents us with a physical establishment of his persona ? ?I look into my glass/ And view my wasting skin?. ...read more.

Middle

Second Stanza Notes: ?For then, I, undistrest? opens the second stanza. This is a complex line; ?For then? means ?because?, due to the inverted commas around the ?I?. ?Undistrest? is an archaic spelling of ?un-distressed? ? meaning ?not worried?. Note Hardy?s use of this word (diction). ?Distress? is an intrinsically negative word but by putting a negative prefix it becomes positive. However, the presence of two negative words in the line reflects oddly on its meaning and the impression given. Hardy does this for a reason. ?For then, I, undistressed/ By hearts grown cold to me/ Could lonely wait my endless rest/ With equanimity.? Very simply, Hardy?s persona is stating that, if his heart had shrunk, he would be able to wait out his life ?with equanimity? ? with a calm temperament. However, the presence of the ?For then? makes this stanza conditional, again implying that the persona is ?without equanimity? ? he?s not brilliantly happy. ...read more.

Conclusion

Third Stanza: Hardy arrives at the crux of the poem, with a comment on the cruel nature of Time. ?Time? is personified as an enemy of the human condition; it ?Part steals, lets part abide?, apparently ?to make [the persona] grieve?. Time removes (?part steals?) the persona?s physical properties; his skin wastes etc. but Time lets his emotional passions remain intact ? making relationships more painful as they deteriorate in old age. Hardy end his poem with the lines ?And [Time] shakes this fragile frame at eve/ With throbbings of noontide?. These are vitally important lines. Within them, Hardy compares his persona?s life with a single day ? diurnal imagery. They include a great deal of emotive imagery; ?shakes? and ?with throbbings?. The latter reflects the throbbing of a heart. Hardy, to explain the metaphor, states that his persona is reminded at the ?eve? (end) of his life by the mental throbbing of his emotional height ? his pinnacle of passion, to put it poetically. Critics have called it a very emotionally overt ending, with a somewhat forced rhyme-scheme once again. You decide. ...read more.

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