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Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Jasmyn (---.lv-llb.nevada.edu)
Date: December 08, 2004 05:41PM

On a Midsummer Eve

I just want to know the basic meaning behind this poem. I don't fully understand it.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Marian-NYC (12.154.236.---)
Date: December 08, 2004 07:19PM

On a Midsummer Eve
by Thomas Hardy

I idly cut a parsley stalk,
And blew therein towards the moon;
I had not thought what ghosts would walk
With shivering footsteps to my tune.

I went, and knelt, and scooped my hand
As if to drink, into the brook,
And a faint figure seemed to stand
Above me, with the bygone look.

I lipped rough rhymes of chance, not choice,
I thought not what my words might be;
There came into my ear a voice
That turned a tenderer verse for me.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-02rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 08, 2004 07:25PM

[www.emule.com] />
I idly cut a parsley stalk,
And blew therein towards the moon;
I had not thought what ghosts would walk
With shivering footsteps to my tune.

I went, and knelt, and scooped my hand
As if to drink, into the brook,
And a faint figure seemed to stand
Above me, with the bygone look.

I lipped rough rhymes of chance, not choice,
I thought not what my words might be;
There came into my ear a voice
That turned a tenderer verse for me.


Sounds either like witchcraft, or a simple act brought back vivid memories, no?


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Elliot (---.92y.org)
Date: December 08, 2004 09:09PM

The important elements are those which are inferred.
"to my tune" - means he was humming or singing something;
"scooped my hand. . . . drink from brook" - he was miming a drink - possibly relating to the song he was humming;
"faint figure" - the vision or impression of someone;
"bygne look" - either elderly or dressed in the style of a bygone time;
"lipped rough rhymes of chance not choice" - he was muttering gobbdygook, nonsense rhyming like stuff;
"into my ear. . . . a tenderer verse" - the whispy, possibly imaginary, possibly ghost, or ghost like figure recited a "tenderer" verse.

Mr. Hardy had a metaphysical like encounter with a... more likely a ghost... or perhaps an imaginary vision of such an encounter with a rhyming figure. The poem is his account of the encounter.

My guess, being roughtly aware of the spiritually based nature of his work, and that much of what great writers create are the results of interaction with their "guides", it was probably what we commonly call a ghost.

E.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: December 09, 2004 11:45AM

Midsummer eve is a famously magical night. Perhaps ghosts dance then and the rough music made when he blew down the stalk as an improvised whistle brought them out. Certainly there was a legend that if you looked into a pool of water on Midsummer Eve you would see the reflection of who you would marry [see John Aubrey]- though, as always with Hardy, it's the dead he sees. In every verse, though, it seems to be the dead who control the living. the last verse could contrast his rough natural rhymes and the poets who influenced Hardy and made him gentle, or possibly his poetic Daemon- his inspiration- appeared then.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-05rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 09, 2004 12:08PM

Elliot, you are back - cool!

According to Gutenberg, the poem was in 'Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses', but I did not see anything there with a similar theme.

[www.gutenberg.org] />
Yeah, there is a Shakespeare reference nearby, but I do not remember anything from Midsummer Night's Dream in such a context, nor did I see any other relevant 'parsley' usage by Will.

Sure, there are probably inferences Hardy wanted us to draw, but they whooshed over me. I have to guess he thought the poem could stand on its own without such knowledge by the reader. Bygone look is an unfamiliar term, implying something past or out of date. Antiquated, mebbe.

Could be a poem about writing a poem, sure.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Lyle Daggett (---.minneapolis-06rh15-16rt.mn.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 10, 2004 12:17AM

What I noticed especially about the poem on the first reading is the careful use of sounds -- the rough quality of the words "rough rhymes," the almost palpable voice in the ear toward the end of the poem, the way the flow of the poem slows down briefly at the word "brook."

I've heard it said that one of the essential qualities of poetry, one of the things that defines what poetry is, is that is cannot be paraphrased. In that sense, I usually don't feel that it's possible or useful to seek after a meaning of a poem, beyond what the poem carries in it.

I don't mean here to put down anyone else's effort or desire to understand a poem in whatever way works for them. I'm just saying what usually works for me. Hardy's poem draws me in, leads me to experience -- physically, sensually -- at least an echo (maybe) of what Hardy experienced, what led him to write the poem. I could feel the cool night air, I could see the shadows and pale fleeting light.

That quality, the ability to convey something of one person's experience to another person, is for me the most important meaning of Hardy's poem, and of poems in general.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: RJAllen (---.creation-net.co.uk)
Date: December 10, 2004 08:30AM

A Midsummer night's Dream is called that because it uses legends and folklore about midsummer eve and midsummer night. Hardy wasn't referring to WS but was using other ones. When I was a child we used to make whistles and pea-shooters out of parsley stalks. There are all sorts of legends about whistles and whistling in the wrong place or wrong way and some about whistling at the moon.
It's not surprising that you don't get the refs: English country lore a century and a half ago may not be widely known now.
As for "bygone look" , it may be unfamiliar, but it's very typical of Hardy- the memory of something is more moving than the thing itself was or the present moment is- the whole concern of many of Th's poems.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: December 10, 2004 03:27PM


Whether or not it's "possible" (I abstain from that discussion), here is what I think the poem MAY be saying, in plainspeak:


"It was midsummer eve, and though others believe that ghosts come out then, I don't believe that stuff, so I didn't expect any such thing. So it certainly surprised me when the simple acts of picking parsley and drinking a bit of brook water brought back such a flood of vivid memories that I was, in effect, brought face to face with a "ghost" from my own past."


I'm going partly on "turned a tenderer tune for me" -- which might mean that he's remembering someone who sang him lullabyes when he was a very little boy.

If I'm right, then one could paraphrase the poem thus: Who needs ghosts when the slightest thing can bring back phantoms from our own memories?


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: December 10, 2004 08:00PM

Thanks, Marian-NYC. That makes a lot of sense. Brings some light to where at first I, like Jasmyn, could see only puzzling obscurity.

Is 'tune' (instead of 'verse') correct in your quote of the final line, or is that a Freudian slip from the last line of the first stanza?


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: December 11, 2004 01:39PM

Not somuch "Who needs ghosts...?"as "The ghosts are always with us in our memories"-oneof Hardy's standard themes.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: December 13, 2004 04:00AM

This thread is fascinating, as is the poem. All the posts helped me to see the poem slightly differently.
Another interpretation is, perhaps, the author talking about his manner of writing poetry. Rather than force words, he lets the unexplained beauty of this world be his guide. Rather than choose what he wants to write, he lets it be chosen for him. And that helps him to create better, softer verse. To get this unexplainable force to be his guide, he participates in the magic of a midsummers eve, and then lets the magic work for him.
Whatever the meaning - it is a beautiful poem. Thanks Jasmyn, for bringing attention to it.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: December 13, 2004 05:42AM

Nother one of them:

The Self-Unseeing
=================
Thomas Hardy

Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.

She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-02rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 13, 2004 01:16PM

Actually, that one is known to be about Hardy's visit to his previous home, in the 1890's or so. He is reminiscing about playing music and singing songs with his parents there.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: December 13, 2004 05:28PM

IanB: Verse is correct. "Tune" was my mistake.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: jerrygarner7 (---.lax.untd.com)
Date: December 13, 2004 09:52PM

always remember, hardy had a dark nature, he will lull you with the
an apparant meaning, as in this poem (which appears to be as it is
it is written) if you read his canon, you will find darkness, despair,...


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (12.73.175.---)
Date: December 14, 2004 11:50AM

He could write light verse as well, though.

[eir.library.utoronto.ca]


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: December 15, 2004 01:21AM

He could write light verse as well, though.

This is a good one. It could be an addition to the satrical poems thread.

Actually, that one is known to be about Hardy's visit to his previous home, in the 1890's or so. He is reminiscing about playing music and singing songs with his parents there.

Now, that one makes sense.

always remember, hardy had a dark nature...

And his prefered meter was the iamb, sometimes penta and sometimes tetra. I wonder if that was deliberate? If one has a darker, more complex kind of a disposition, it is better to stick to a lighter meter. Whereas, if one is not always prone to melancholy, one can be be more varied with the meter, as with Yeats. Does that make sense? Maybe not.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 15, 2004 11:28AM

Yup. Whole books have been written on using such techniques to achieve specific results.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: jerrygarner7 (---.lax.untd.com)
Date: December 15, 2004 01:08PM

ghost? memories? tender? anguish?-which is it?
whatever it is, it is memory of times past.
a grasping of things that were, only whisps remain which cannot be
recalled upon demand, only acknowledged ( felt) in the context of a memory link.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Desi (---.adsl.proxad.net)
Date: December 16, 2004 07:17AM

anguish is memory of times past?

You are not making things very clear you know.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: December 22, 2004 04:42PM

The fairies may be called on Midsummer's Eve- perhaps one of them is Hardy's visitor, rather than a ghost.

pam


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh16rt-04rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 23, 2004 04:05PM

Or even a muse?


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: December 23, 2004 04:05PM

Hardy Har Har


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: LRye (---.brmngh01.mi.comcast.net)
Date: December 23, 2004 06:33PM

On a Midsummer Eve
by Thomas Hardy

I idly cut a parsley stalk,
And blew therein towards the moon;
I had not thought what ghosts would walk
With shivering footsteps to my tune.

I went, and knelt, and scooped my hand
As if to drink, into the brook,
And a faint figure seemed to stand
Above me, with the bygone look.

I lipped rough rhymes of chance, not choice,
I thought not what my words might be;
There came into my ear a voice
That turned a tenderer verse for me.

*

I picture this man casually cutting some parsley
with a pocketknife, pulled from his pocket, and blowing
on it as one does, more commonly on a dandelion.
He's just being a dufus, not thinking about much
at all. The ghost reference prepares the reader
for the second stanza where

the speaker bends and scoops some water,
a pretty common thing to do as well, yet
what a surprise!!---"faint" and a "bygone look" seem to imply
death, in other words, that the figure
is a ghost, which the reader already knows---

"Lipping rough rhymes of chance" throws me,
but seems to imply that the speaker doesn't
see himself as much of a poet, not very suave
although he has no choice as to what comes out
of his mouth and then
it's almost as though this ghost,
this apparition thinks for him.

So yeah, I agree that this poem is a metaphor
for writing a poem or creating any type of art---
that prime art comes from
a spiritual force and / or source.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: chuck (---.mn.client2.attbi.com)
Date: December 24, 2004 03:55PM

I think he meant blowing into the stalk, like a whistle....


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: LRye (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: December 24, 2004 08:14PM

wow---I never thought of that---I've never seen parsley
thick enuf in diameter to whistkle thru but that makes sense
as to the "tune" part then. Hmm. Interesting, so now the speaker
is rathter Pan-like or Pied-Piper-ish.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: ns (---.bng.vsnl.net.in)
Date: December 25, 2004 12:09AM

"Lipping rough rhymes of chance" throws me,

Perhaps this could mean rhymes that come "by chance"; thoughts that come up in the poet's mind by chance. Since one has not thought them out thoroughly, their meaning is rough perhaps even to the poet.

BTW, I tried this out: to have the ghost be my guide while writing a poem. I think the ghost is away on holiday.


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: December 25, 2004 03:02AM

Perhaps he's here, because most times I feel like I'm merely taking dictation


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: ANGEL (221.229.250.---)
Date: December 25, 2004 06:36AM

I want to know something about the poet of Tomas hardy
The name of the poet is "the voice"
i want to sth about the background of the poet and the using of langue of the poet and the figue of the speech
Thank you


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-04rh16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: December 25, 2004 11:29AM


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: Marty (---.247.72.102.up.mi.chartermi.net)
Date: December 26, 2004 10:16AM

In the absence of an explanation by the author himself, each reader's interpretation can never be anything but conjecture. For the sake of discussion, LRye's interpretation mirrors my own.

Marty


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: ns (202.88.172.---)
Date: December 27, 2004 01:48AM

Perhaps he's here, because most times I feel like I'm merely taking dictation

smiling smiley


Re: Thomas Hardy's poem
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: December 29, 2004 06:12AM

,I've never seen parsley
thick enuf in diameter to whistkle.

That's because you are thinking of the parsley you dress salads with and eat in parsley sauce. Hardy is probably talking about cow parsley, a biggish umbellifer with thick stems you can make into whistles. Think "Giant Hogweed" only smaller - but don't try making a whistle out of Giant Hogweed - it has nasty sap which causes blisters in bright light if you get it on your skin .




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