Please help me with this poem. Info about the theme and poetic devices would be great!
By Thomas Hardy
Ah, are you digging on my grave,
My loved one? -- planting rue?"
-- "No: yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
'That I should not be true.'"
"Then who is digging on my grave,
My nearest dearest kin?"
-- "Ah, no: they sit and think, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death's gin.'"
"But someone digs upon my grave?
My enemy? -- prodding sly?"
-- "Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.
"Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say -- since I have not guessed!"
-- "O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"
"Ah yes! You dig upon my grave...
Why flashed it not to me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog's fidelity!"
"Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting place."
What other literary devices are in this poem other than rhetorical questions, diction, rhyme scheme, and irony that contribute to the theme?
Divisions into stanzas and into lines are basic literary devices of poetry.
There's probably a technical name for the literary device of repeating (with or without slight variations) the same phrase (in this poem "digging on my grave") in the first line of each stanza, but I don't know what the name is.
Likewise, I don't know whether there's a technical name for a double surprise ending. [Perhaps a “reversal” or “double reversal”?]
The first three stanzas give the impression that there's a serious dialogue going on. Cheerless answers are being given to the deceased's questions, and there is no suggestion of any light relief coming. Then in stanza 4 it is revealed that the answering voice is that of her pet dog, and that the dog has been doing the digging. In the final stanza it is revealed that the dog has not been digging out of loyal memory of the deceased's presence, but simply in order to bury a bone.
I'm not sure that that's “irony”. Hardy probably intended it to be humorous.
There are some words used metaphorically in the poem:
wealth has bred
the Gate that shuts on all flesh
There are arguable examples of synechdoche [a part being used to represent the whole]:
the brightest wealth has bred
one true heart was left behind.
And finally the typo gremlin appears to have left a dropping in your post, though we can’t attribute that to the poet. I don’t think Hardy meant to refer in stanza 2 to the distillation of one kind of spirit (the deceased’s) from another kind of spirit. Shouldn’t the last word of that stanza be “grin”, not “gin”? If so, please do us a favour, go into “Edit Post” and correct it!
I had read planting rue as literal, not metaphorical.
You may well be right, Linda. Until I checked in my dictionary I was unaware there is a plant called rue. Hardy was probably referring to that.
I was reading 'rue' as meaning grief, and 'planting rue' as implying that the 'loved one' had nothing to plant in the dug earth except tears. That may be too far-fetched as a primary interpretation. If it's plausible as an alternative, it enriches the text with a little ambiguity. Otherwise it just provides a punnish overtone to the literal interpretation.
I thought later that you might not know the plant. I think he did want the ambiguity, otherwise he could have found some way of using the more obvious rosemary for remembrance.