Extended commentary of 'On the Departure Platform' by Thomas Hardy

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On the Departure Platform


On the Title: This is obviously a metaphor for the ending of a “moment”, as well as the literal description of the place where many of the images (within the poem) are based; on a train platform, where the persona and his female love interest part. The title introduces the poem’s key theme to the reader – a separation of young love, but not a permanent one. As one reads further into the poem itself, the persona comments on the painful fact that humanity leaves behind time as well.

Overall Structure: Hardy writes in 6 stanzas of English quatrains with an alternate rhyme scheme (a similar technique used in other poems) to concentrate the poem. The last line of these stanzas is conspicuously shorter than the others – usually four or five syllables to the other nine or ten. Hardy does this to a) draw attention to them but also b) to the theme they nearly all have in common. They all illustrate, in the first four stanzas, a diminuation in the woman’s size; as an optical effect, she gets smaller the further she moves away into the crowd. This, in some ways, adds to the poignancy of the poem.

Themes: Time (the way that it works), Distance, Pain

Difficult Language Notes: ‘Nebulous’ means cloudy.

First Stanza Notes: Hardy’s poem is full of visual ideas – they are continuous to provide an important effect to be later considered. Thus his opening line is of an image; “We kissed at the barrier; and passing through/ She left me.” Hardy intentionally uses a stark and blunt image – the enjambment highlights the phrases “passing through” (immediately presenting images of movement, perhaps through Time as well) and “She left me”. One can feel the emotion in that conspicuously short phrase.

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And moment by moment got/ Smaller and smaller.” Continuing with the diminuation of the woman’s figure, Hardy uses mirroring comparatives to emphasize the change. The stanza then ends with the shortened line; ‘She was but a spot;’. Notice the empty sounds in ‘spot’, but the harsh consonance – it invokes a decisively negative emotion. Also note the semicolon at the end of the line. The sense of the sentence continues into the next stanza; viewing the poem as a whole is crucially important.

Second Stanza Notes: Again, Hardy presents an image; ‘A wee white spot of muslin fluff’ – the ...

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