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At the Word

Thomas Hardys poem At the Word Farewell was
published in 1917, about five years after the death of his
wife Emma. The poem is based on the first meeting on the
couple and Hardy writes in such a way that it could almost
be a eulogy for Emma. The poem is about the almost
ethereal presence of Emma and how they fell in love.
Rhetorical devices and other interesting concepts:
The poem has a regular rhyme scheme of
(A,B,A,B,C,D,C,D), although the line length fluctuates
throughout the poem, adding to the uneasy and ghostly
nature of the poem.
From the very beginning of the poem we are given a very
unnatural image of a bird from a cloud juxtaposed with
the clammy lawn. The first line leads us to thinking of
something very beautiful and delicate, but instead is
followed by a feeling of unpleasantness or illness. This is
emphasised by bare-browed. These plosive bs again
remind us of a sensation of sweatiness and discomfort. The
alliteration of the dim of dawn adds to the somewhat
ghoulish and dark feeling that Hardy has created.
Hardy shows the darkness by candles alight for his
parting meal, making the reader think of death and
adding to the sombre atmosphere. Hardy uses
withoutdoors loom to show the stretched out shadows
created by the flickering candles; this physical imagery
draws the eye of the reader. In the last line of the stanza,
Hardy utilises two caesuras: Strange, ghostly, unreal.
These breaks leave short, punchy words that add to the
eeriness and unsettled atmosphere, also making the reader
think about the each word independently.
In the first line of the second stanza the hour is described
as a ghost. This repetition again reminds of the dark and
gloom that surrounds the poem. The third line has
repetition of chances and chance, showing the

unlikelihood of seeing the woman again, but the line is

juxtaposed with itself, due to furthermost meaning that
the meeting is inevitable.
Hardy personifies Plan to show a higher plan or deity that
has already been worked out for our lives. Hardy believed
strongly in fate, so he may have thought that this was
destined to happen. This idea is emphasised by ruled us
from birthtime, and the colon ending of the stanza shows
the beginning of a list to show what occurs next.
The third stanza prelude[s] with a musical theme, once
again adding to the ethereal and spiritual essence of the
poem. The foreshadow suggests as to a time before he
knew that Emma was going to die, the connotations of
death are brought in by what fortune might weave, this
supposedly was to do with Greek mythology.
Throughout the latter half of the stanza, Hardy uses several
horse metaphors, to show that Emma was very much in
control of the relationship. He describes rose as if
quickened by a spur and bound to obey, he had to go and
see her. This strange horse metaphor continues with the
use of gray, a gray is the proper name for a white horse;
maybe Emma had a certain love of horses, but this we are
unsure of. The poet also mentions going through the
casement to her, it suggests going into another world
solely to see her because he is so drawn to her.
In the final stanza, Hardy makes use of lots of punctuation
in order to show his desperation for Emma, up until now we
have seen very little punctuation so this may be the
release of emotion from Hardy. Hardy uses an ellipsis and
an exclamation mark to break up the goodbye; she is so
intriguing that he cannot stop following her. The writer uses
bare boughs which is a contrast to bare-browed. The first
part, she is hatless and free however now she has met
Hardy the bare boughs are overhead and are oppressive
over now; the plosive bs illustrate this vivid difference
from the start and end of the poem. Again Hardy uses an
exclamation mark to show this this breakthrough of
emotion again.

The final few lines of the poem show a turning point in the
poem against love by a feather meaning anything could
have happened. Hardy then uses a caesura which is highly
dramatic due to the show of feelings from Emma. The end
line displays the two of them coming back to reality
together, this demonstrates the newly formed love of this

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