One of the key themes in Hardy’s poetry is for sure the setting. We can see this very clearly through the many descriptions of places he has visited with Emma in the past and wants to return to or have been a part of his daily life as a child.
The first poem i am going to talk about is ‘The Haunter’.
Like many of Hardy’s poems it was written after Emma’s death which is the reason for the sad mood of the poem, as if focusing not on the fun and happy times of their relationship. but is haunted both by her and his memories.
In the first stanza Hardy writes “I haunt here nightly” which suggests that the action is repetitive and doesn’t leave him alone. In addition the fact that its set at night gives it a more demonic and ghostly connotation which links in with the haunting.
Further on through the poem Hardy states that “places only dreamers know” which suggests that all the places he and emma went to were a dream and nothing else as if it was impossible for it to occur but also could mean the fact that the whole haunting is taking place just in Hardy’s head and no one else would be able to emphasise with his suffering or that Hardy’s thoughts and guilt are the real Haunters
Further on Hardy talk about old isles which could symbolize old places he and Emma have visited.
Another one of Hardy’s poem which focuses a lot about place and setting is the Darkling Thrush.
In this poem it’s the darkest and deepest part of winter where even a little bit of green can’t be seen and everything is desolate and empty. This could represent Hardy’s life after Emma’s death.The speaker – Hardy himself – is trying the reader to experience time conspiring with us as well as the chill and darkness of winter itself.However the landscape is extremely empty and there’s no person present to experience all of this. The only living create is an “aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small.
The bird starting to sing “has chosen thus to fling his soul” is an extreme contrast to the surrounding and could possibly be presenting Hardy trying to break free from his sadness after the loss of Emma.
However the poem that in my eyes focuses the most on setting and place is ‘The Self-Unseeing’. Although unlike the rest of the poems i talked about it does not focus on reminiscing the places he has visited after Emma’s death or isn’t linked to his grief following her death it talks about his childhood home.
In the first stanza, the poem opens in a ruined room with no door and a floor that was eaten away by the feet of those who used to live there. ‘Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin’,this highlights how long ago Hardy lived there and how many memories both sad and happy it holds.
It is clear enough that the first stanza is fully dedicated to the present state of the room.The poet seems to be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and remorse over his childhood home. He shows his sadness through the frequent reference to adjectives like“ancient, foot worn, hollowed, dead”. These adjectives thoroughly describe the ruined condition of the room.
However although the condition of the room is really bad Hardy focuses on the good memories and not on the setting. For example his father playing the violin and him dancing happily to the music. ‘Bowing it higher and higher.Childlike, I danced in a dream’.
Concludingly, places and setting is a very key theme in every Hardy poem as it helps him create a mood through pathetic fallacy. However the poems aren’t always linked to Emma’s death as well as the places they have visited together which shows Hardys range of emotions and feelings.