Extended commentary of 'During Wind and Rain' by Thomas Hardy

Authors Avatar by abuelgasim (student)

During Wind and Rain

“Et in Arcadia ego” – “Even in Arcadia, I am there”

On the Title: An ambiguous and interesting choice of title, in that it is – as I will show – both incongruous with the tense (or time-scale) used in the poem and draws the reader’s attention to descriptions of the weather. The word “during” makes the weather conditions affect the present. However, the poem is mostly written in the historic present and many of the stanzas depict images of bright, pleasant days – not the “wind and rain” alluded to in the title. There is clearly an intentional discrepancy being orchestrated here by Hardy.

Quote SLS: “Beware “during”, the incongruous preposition.”

Overall Structure: Four stanzas of seven lines, with a very strange (but regular) rhyme scheme. Hardy uses a very odd structure indeed. The rhyme scheme utilised in the poem consists of: ABCBCDA.

There are multiple effects of this:

  • The sixth line in the stanza breaks the poetic flow of the stanza, as it is the only line not to rhyme with another – hence acting like a mid-stanzaic volta. It draws attention to itself. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the sixth line of every stanza breaks away from the theme of familial happiness painted in the previous five lines, and turns the subject to the contrasting theme of death. Observe the refrains used!
  • The drawn out “A” rhyme encompasses the entirety of each stanza. Given that the last line (about death) is linked to the first (about life), is Hardy trying to show the unavoidable connection of life and death?
  • Seven lines to each stanza perhaps represent a week, just as the four stanzas represent the seasons? Very poor allusion.

Themes: Death, Family life, Time, The Seasons.

Difficult Language Notes: “Blithely” means “happily”.

First Stanza Notes: 

“They sing their dearest songs –

He, she, all of them – yea,

Treble and tenor and bass,

And one to play;

With the candles mooning each face...

Ah, no, the years O!

How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!”

This poem is one full of repetition and refrain. The general layout of each stanza, in terms of theme, organisation and repetition of certain lines, remains constant. Each stanza, for example, opens with an image of a family – presumably the same one throughout – in a place, or carrying out an action, in a unified and “happy” way. This stanza evokes a scene of the Victorian family gathered, singing, around a piano (“one to play”), as piano playing and “sing-a-long” was, of course, very common in Hardy’s time.

Note how he only uses personal pronouns; distancing effect?

Hardy goes to perhaps extreme lengths to show the family’s unity. On a critical note, one could criticise his rather inefficient use of the first four lines of this poem, but that is not our aim. Some analysis:

  • They sing their dearest songs”. Note the use of a superlative adjective in “dearest”. It is the first of many. We may query its meaning; perhaps it indicates a certain reverence to familial attitude, both in Hardy and in the family itself. They are enjoying it!
  • He, she, all of them.” Illustrates a togetherness within the family – one which (as Hardy will later comment upon) Death inevitably overcomes. The following line regarding the different musical voice (“Treble and tenor and bass”) illustrates a similar thing, but is used to point out that Death affects all elements of family, regardless of age. How very depressing – we’re only at line 3! Even better, he does this in all stanzas.
  • “– yea” Note use of colloquial (conversational) affirmative. Not only is it used to force the rhyme scheme, but it contrasts with the later “Ah, no”, which is negative. Hardy does this in all stanzas. Without jumping ahead, however, it is simply a friendly comment of approval.
  • “With the candles mooning each face” Night time scene. Interesting, seeing as it contrasts with the other images presented, which are all in bright daylight.
  • “Ah, no; the years O!” Thus we encounter the “inter-stanzaic volta”. Not only does the rhyme scheme depart from regularity (We label the sixth line in all stanzas the ‘D’ rhyme, as it is the only line not to have a rhyming companion). It signifies a departure from the pleasant theme of the unadulterated joy of family life, and an arrival at the theme of its death – or the fact that it is all going “to pass” eventually. As before mentioned, the “Ah, no;” contrasts with the previous affirmative. The actual sense of this line is rather obscure. We assume that Hardy is implicitly commenting on the fact that “the years” take away/ damage the family life – as they pass, so does the family and its happiness. “O!” is an ejaculation, expressing sadness or mourning for the family.
  • “How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!” Hardy furthers his ideas about death. Here is a line referring to the autumnal decay of life – leaves falling – and the way in which it precedes Death. Note how the leaves, when considered in “throngs”, may represent people? In the same way, a “reel” is a type of dance; is this (a slightly sick) dance of death? Unlikely, but we must remember that Hardy has no qualms with tragic irony.
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Second Stanza Notes: 

“They clear the creeping moss –

Elders and juniors – aye,

Making the pathways neat and the garden gay;

And they build a shady seat...

Ah, no; the years, the years;

See the white storm-birds wing across!”

Once again, Hardy begins his stanza with an image of the family, this time in the garden – presumably in spring, as suggested by the fact that they are clearing the remains of winter (“the creeping moss”), whilst he describes the garden as “gay”. One can immediately recognise the structural similarities shared with the first stanza, as well ...

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