Extended commentary of 'The Pine Planters' by Thomas Hardy

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The Pine Planters

“Marty South’s Reverie”

An Elegy.

On the Title: A simple reference to the characters described in the first part of the poem. Overall, though, it refers to an earlier work by Hardy, named ‘The Woodlanders’. Marty South – note the lack of explicit gender reference in the name – is a character from ‘The Woodlanders’ whose thoughts are expressed in an odd, stream-of-consciousness-esque reverie. Hardy is interested in the melancholy of both human relationships and within nature; the lack of meaning he can find in natural suffering.

Overall Structure: Hardy splits the poem into two parts, with two very different structural styles:

  1. Part I takes a ballad form; 8 English quatrains with a mostly ABCB rhyme scheme, but with the occasional use of an alternate scheme when emphasis is required. Hardy uses very simple language throughout this stanza – the images presented are equally so.
  2. Part II contains three stanzas of 12 lines, with an alternate rhyme scheme. Consequently, the poem loses its sense of ballad and, as the lines increase in length, becomes more abstract and ‘deep’. This allows for an increased intensity, both in the content and exploration of the images produced. It allows for no more emotive punctuation either!

Despite being linked in content, the two parts have very different structural nuances.

Difficult Language Notes:

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“Halt and hoary” is an archaic phrase for ‘old and grey’.


Nature’s lament, Man and Nature, Relationships

Notes on Part I

The poem must be discussed separately, in terms of its parts, before comparing the two. However, Hardy writes in such short stanzas that analysing each one would be pointless, yet the meaning behind Hardy’s ‘Part I’ is described very gradually. Therefore, a summary:

Hardy writes, in the first person, of a couple who work in forestry. It is assumed that the persona is female (or otherwise homosexual, which would present an interesting perspective) and is called ‘Marty ...

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