Appreciating Rain on a Grave by Thomas Hardy

Essay by minteeHigh School, 11th gradeB, July 2008

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This poem presents its composer, Thomas Hardy, through a persona of grief over his late wife.

The poem is contextualized immediately after Mrs. Hardy’s death as the widowed persona stands by her grave. The poem moves from third person perspective through to a first person point of view. It reflects on the persona’s guilt of mistreating his late wife before her death and his yearning to be with her in the present.

‘Would I lay there –And she were housed there! –Or better, together…We both, - who would stray there’Hardy wrote this poem as a way of expiating the way he treated his late wife while she was alive. The poet, Thomas Hardy introduces the poem by describing the rain spouting on the persona’s wife’s grave ‘Clouds spout upon her’. This creates a melancholy mood in the audience and expresses the physical pain she suffered from the persona whilst she was living ‘Her who but lately – Had shivered with pain’, his past actions make him feel immensely guilty.

The purpose of this poem was for the poet to reflect upon his actions and acknowledge his guilt for the mistreatment of his late wife. The persona contemplates on his behaviour towards his wife while she was alive causing her physical and emotional pain and acknowledges that his love was lost through his ill-treatment of his late wife.

This is evident through the following lines:“Her who but lately – Had shivered with pain’ and his yearning to be reunited with her again ‘Would I lay there – And she were housed there! – Or better, together… We both, - who would stray there’The poem moves from a serious tone to a more light hearted tone. The poet evokes a sad, melancholy mood in the early stanzas of the poem ‘Clouds spout upon her’ ‘Had shivered with pain’ and in the late stanzas of the poem the poet evokes a somewhat contented mood ‘Love beyond measure – With a child’s pleasure – All her life’s round.” There is a bittersweet tone to the poet’s reflections upon his thoughts of his wife in the poem.

The poem consists of four stanzas with each stanza consisting of nine lines. The informal language in Rain on a Grave is effective and appropriate in conveying Hardy’s reminiscence of thoughts and feelings as it allows him to freely express his emotions and hence it serves to achieve his purpose.

Hardy uses several imagery techniques throughout the poem ‘Green blades from her mound,’ which allows readers to visualize the grass on her grave, ‘Clouds spout upon her’ which helps readers envisage the image of rain spouting on the grave giving a melancholy effect. Other techniques used are metaphors ‘so coldly, so straightly – such arrows of rain:’ giving the striking effect of rain and the cold, reality is brings ‘like stars on the ground, - Till she form part of them-’ gives the uplifting mood and that his wife’s afterlife is a much better life than the one she had when alive, emotive language ‘loved beyond measure – With a child’s pleasure’ gives the empathy of love and how it can be beyond anything and rhyming techniques ‘When sunny the day there, - Or evening was clear – At the prime of the year.’ The techniques in the poem assist with evoking the reader with what the persona feels and sees and the mood of the poem. The rhythm is slow and gentle, appropriate for the persona’s thoughts. Movement of this poem is slow placed to suit the reflective thoughts and emphasize the thoughts of the persona.

Due to the poet’s use of structure, imagery and metaphors he enables readers to feel and sympathize with his thoughts.