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A Broken Appointment Analysis

Author: poem of Thomas Hardy Type: poem Views: 18

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You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure loving kindness' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love me not,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
--I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love me not.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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A Broken Appointment by THOMAS HARDY
You did not come, 1
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb, - 2
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there 3
Than that I thus found lacking in your make 4
That high compassion which can overbear 5
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake 6
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum, 7
You did not come. 8
You love not me, 9
And love alone can lend you loyalty; 10
– I know and knew it. But, unto the store 11
Of human deeds divine in all but name, 12
Was it not worth a little hour or more 13
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came 14
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be 15
You love not me? 16
Incomprehensible syntax in stanza 1 !!!!
Let’s get a few things clear: who is the ‘you’ referred to in the poem?
A woman (14) who does not love the speaker (9) and who failed to turn up (8) hence the poem’s title.
Who is the speaker?
a man (15) who is “time-torn”.
He has been waiting for a while – so long he is worn numb (2)
Was he waiting for an hour? (7)
He is sad the woman has not come (7)
He knew and knows the woman does not love him (11)
What do we know about the meeting and what might it have achieved?
It did not happen (title)
It would have lasted an hour or so (13)
Some comfort for the man.
What would you say the dominant feelings are in the poem? Give your reasons!
What do we know about the author?
Born in 1840, in a cottage you can still visit today in Dorset; eldest of four children; born into a family of builders, Thomas Hardy left home at 16 to go to London to study architecture. Initially, he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891). However, he saw himself primarily as a poet and writer, having his poems published from 1898 onwards.
He married twice: first to Emma Gifford in 1874, and then, when Emma had died in 1912, to Florence Dugdale who had been his biographer. He had had an affair with Florence whilst married to Emma who by then had moved to a separate bedroom, living in the attic of their home, Max Gate, near Dorchester (which you can also visit). In fact, the couple were estranged for almost twenty years. After her death, Hardy’s poems reveal his grief and guilt (Some of Hardy's most famous poems are from "Poems of 1912–13"; see, for example, the poem ‘Woman much missed’).
In May 1893, Hardy had met Florence Henniker when she was hosting a party at Dublin Castle, her brother's residence as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. She would remain friends with Hardy for the rest of her life, although she rejected his sexual advances. Hardly surprising: she was also married – to an army officer! They collaborated on a short story "The Spectre of the Real", first published in 1894. Hardy's letters to Henniker were published in 1972 under the title One Rare Fair Woman.
Back to the poem:
This is a poem that is also an example of apostrophe, an address to someone who is absent.
The appointment is broken – a “dis-appointment”, one might say, and disappointment is certainly the dominant feeling in the poem. But in whom or in what?
But the longer he stands there, waiting for her to show, the more his feelings cool towards her – not so much because she has simply failed to turn up, but because of what it suggests: that she doesn’t care for his feelings. Not liking him is one thing; stringing him along and refusing to exhibit compassion or ‘lovingkindness’, is worse. x speaker reflects on a past event – the broken appointment – and his past awareness and present full realisation that the woman does not live him. However, it is not the fact that she did not show up which really afflicts the speaker (3), rather the fact that she did not even have the grace, the “compassion” or “lovingkindness” to help a friend in need by giving him an hour of her friendship. She failed to overcome her “reluctance” to spend that brief moment with him. So he grieves, not for the lack of her love for him – which he already knew really (11) – but for the lack of friendship she shows him. She has none of the “high” morals; including “loyalty” towards a friend (10). We might take issue with the speaker here if this is indeed autobiographical and about Florence Henniker, given that she was married; one could argue that she DID show loyalty – both to her husband and, by not meeting alone with Hardy, to Emma Gifford, his wife, who might have felt betrayed by Florence if she had met Hardy. Hardy’s speaker argues the opposite: that to have met the poor, desperate, “time-torn man” would have given the woman a “divine” reputation; he does not ask to be loved; just for her to “soothe” him (15).
Lyric poetry is known for its sounds and musicality: how does this work? Which sounds dominate in which lines and to what effect?
I like the repetition of the ‘m’ sounds in line 3 which I think give a melancholic feel to the poem, as the speaker’s feelings grow increasingly numb.
The rhythm is iambic (an iambic pentameter, in fact: very classical) which reinforces the numbing sense of seconds and the time marching by.
What do you notice about the poem’s structural devices?
Lines 1 and 9 have the same structure
The monosyllables hammer out the raw truth’ do they suggest anger, resentment or disappointment in unrequited love?
The repeated structure reinforces the word “not”, especially in line 9 which has a forced syntax.
The parallelism of the structure clearly links the two lines: the fact that she did not come proves that she does not love the speaker.
The circularity of the poem’s stanzas, ending as they do with the same line as they began, reinforces this idea that speaker and addressee are at a stalemate. If the woman is a no-show, then what future does their ‘relationship’ have?
The rhyme scheme is also quite circular: AABCBCAA which again reflects the lack of advance in the relationship.
There are the subtle patternings of the two stanzas: the assonance in the third line of each stanza in ‘Yet less for loss’ and ‘I know and knew it’. Such echoes and designs help Hardy to capture that sense of turning over one’s thoughts when one is stood up and left waiting alone.
What use does Hardy make of playing on words?
“Less for loss” (3)
“I know and knew it” (11)
The poem ends on a question – a rhetorical one, since the subject of the poem is not there to answer it. So it invites the reader to answer the question: what do you think? Should the woman have gone to meet the speaker and be alone with him for an hour or so?
“marching Time” – time moves forward inexorably; there is no going back
But one of the worst things we all experience, as the speaker did, is waiting; especially when waiting for the person one loves. Time seems endless… marching on and on…
“time-torn man” why is the speaker time-torn? Maybe because Hardy’s twenty-year-long marriage to Emma (by the time he had met Florence) was already suffering and he was feeling the weight of the years. No divorce back then, of course…
Maybe he is old and time has worn him down, torn him, and he is regretting his loss of strength and energy
Both images represent a personification of time. Time has worn him numb and torn him. The wait for unrequited love can first numb then deeply hurt someone.
Look at the following video renditions of the poem. Which do you like best and why?
How would you read the poem x

| Posted on 2017-04-11 | by a guest

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