Nesbit Likes: During Wind and Rain by Thomas Hardy


To put it bluntly, everything must come to an end. All life will extinguish at some point. 25-30 years if you’re a horse, 150 years if you’re a tortoise.

Hardy accepts this in sturdy poetry. In four stanzas, we’re given a pleasant image, flavoured in rhyme and positive imagery. Then, each stanza rounds in despair, the loss of life, the weight of change. The consistent stanza length furthers the inevitable loss and decay. The seasons come and go, bringing in their bodies happiness and laughter, and in their departures sadness and grief.

But to call this a tragic poem is, I think, a mistake. Upon my first discovery, x many years ago, I focused on all the negativity. I assume most people would, what with the repeated verbal cries, shattering the perfect pictures. The final ‘sick leaves’, how the ‘rotten rose is ript from the wall’; despite the majority being in light, the rounding two lines of each stanza carry more gravity than the rest. And whilst it seems to be Hardy’s intention, to highlight how things must come to an end, that’s not to be taken as a bad thing.

Although we may see death as the main theme, family, love, and happy times are of more importance. Yes, the poem ends with the narrator stood amongst tombstones. Yes, it’s during wind and rain, harshly reiterating the many years passed. But there’s a note of optimism. The use of the word ‘ploughs’, hanging on until the last minute, brings forth the images of agriculture, of renewed land, fresh soil. New life. This isn’t an end but rather the story of this person, and their surroundings, moving onto another chapter. Tolkien perfectly captures this through Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings:

No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Those moments, singing, gardening, being with family, they are gone. The memories, however, are certainly not. They are cemented in our brains, never to be changed with season, for us to cherish in the future as we move on from the past.

During Wind and Rain

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!

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!

They are blithely breakfasting all—
Men and maidens—yea,
Under the summer tree,
With a glimpse of the bay,
While pet fowl come to the knee…
Ah, no; the years O!
And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.

They change to a high new house,
He, she, all of them—aye,
Clocks and carpets and chairs
On the lawn all day,
And brightest things that are theirs…
Ah, no; the years, the years;
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs.

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