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

Authors Avatar by abuelgasim (student)

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”.

This is the only physical description/detail in the poem; consequently it is of great importance. Hardy uses his ‘wasting skin’ to relate to his heart – his emotional life. ‘”Would God it came to pass/ My heart had shrunk as thin!”’. In short, the persona wishes that his emotions, his passions, his loves had ‘shrunken’ - or reduced in strength – at the same rate as his physical entity/appearance. Hardy uses enjambment in the line ‘skin/ And say” to add emphasis, along with the presence of direct speech. Perhaps the enjambment keeps the reader in suspense? Note the reference to the Almighty – a further note of emphasis. Emphasis is very important in such a concentrated poem.

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The reader is forced to very rapidly deduce the persona’s emotions. He wishes that his emotions would fade; perhaps he can’t face the pain of rejection? In any case, it is implied that his emotional life is still very much alive – it has yet to wither.

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 ...

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