'Afterwards' by Thomas Hardy

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When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,"He was a man who used to notice such things"?If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,"To him this must have been a familiar sight."If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures shouldcome to no harm,But he could do little for them; and now he is gone."If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand atthe door,Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things?"

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Afterwards" by Thomas Hardy: A Deep Dive into the Poet's Mind

As I sit here, sipping my coffee and reading Thomas Hardy's "Afterwards," I can't help but marvel at the depth of emotions and thoughts the poet has managed to convey in just a few stanzas. It's like peeking into the mind of a genius and trying to make sense of the complex web of ideas, memories, and feelings that swirl around inside.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will attempt to explore the deeper meanings and themes of "Afterwards," analyzing the poet's use of language, imagery, and symbolism to reveal his innermost thoughts and feelings about life, death, and the human condition.

Context and Background

Before we dive into the poem itself, it's important to understand the context and background that led to its creation. "Afterwards" was written by Thomas Hardy in 1917, when he was already an established author and poet. By this time, he had experienced many personal losses and tragedies, including the death of his first wife Emma and the destruction of many of his manuscripts by a housemaid.

Hardy was also living in a time of great social and political upheaval, with World War I raging on and the world changing rapidly. These experiences no doubt influenced the themes and ideas that he explores in "Afterwards," as well as his overall worldview.


Structure and Form

One of the first things that strikes me about "Afterwards" is the structure and form of the poem. It is written in four stanzas, each consisting of eight lines, with a consistent rhyme scheme of ABABCCDD. This strict adherence to form gives the poem a sense of order and symmetry, which is in contrast to the chaotic and unpredictable nature of life.

In addition, the use of rhyme and rhythm creates a musicality and flow to the poem that draws the reader in and makes it easier to follow the poet's train of thought. Each line is carefully crafted and composed, with a precise choice of words and phrasing that adds to the overall meaning and impact of the poem.

Language and Imagery

The language and imagery used in "Afterwards" are rich and evocative, painting vivid pictures in the reader's mind and conveying a wide range of emotions and ideas. Hardy uses a mix of concrete and abstract language, weaving together sensory details with more abstract concepts to create a complex and layered poem.

For example, in the first stanza, he describes the "apple boughs / Laden with apples red and rosy" and the "distant huntsman and his pack / Yell in the morning air." These concrete details anchor the poem in a specific time and place, while also conveying a sense of beauty and joy.

However, he also uses more abstract language, such as "What may befall / In the dim unknown" and "Time torn us and flung us / Wherever he will." These phrases hint at the uncertainty and unpredictability of life, and the sense of loss and dislocation that can come with it.

Throughout the poem, Hardy uses a variety of images and metaphors to convey his ideas. For example, the image of the "silent after-world" in the first stanza suggests a sense of peace and tranquility after death, while the metaphor of time as a "great wind" blowing us apart in the third stanza conveys a sense of inevitability and powerlessness.

Themes and Ideas

At its core, "Afterwards" is a meditation on life, death, and the human condition. Hardy explores the transience of life, the inevitability of death, and the ways in which we can find meaning and purpose in the face of these realities.

One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of legacy and how we will be remembered after we are gone. Hardy suggests that the things we create and the people we touch will live on after us, and that this is a source of comfort and solace in the face of mortality.

In addition, Hardy explores the idea of the afterlife and what may await us in the "silent after-world." He suggests that there may be some kind of continuation after death, but that it is ultimately unknowable and beyond our control.

Finally, the poem grapples with the idea of time and how it shapes our lives. Hardy suggests that time is both a destroyer and a creator, tearing us apart but also giving us the opportunity to create something lasting and meaningful.


After spending some time with "Afterwards," I am struck by the depth and complexity of Thomas Hardy's ideas and emotions. Through his use of language, imagery, and symbolism, he has created a powerful meditation on life, death, and the human spirit that continues to resonate with readers today.

As I finish my coffee and close the book, I can't help but feel a sense of awe and admiration for this great poet and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience in such a profound and moving way.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Afterwards: A Masterpiece by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, the renowned English novelist and poet, is known for his literary works that explore the complexities of human relationships and the struggles of life. One of his most celebrated poems, "Poetry Afterwards," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the poet's craft and the impact it has on the reader.

The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on the power of poetry and how it can transport the reader to another world. He describes how poetry can take us to places we have never been and make us feel things we have never felt before. The speaker then goes on to say that, despite the beauty of poetry, it is often overlooked and undervalued in our society.

Hardy's use of language in this poem is particularly striking. He employs vivid imagery and metaphors to convey the power of poetry. For example, he describes poetry as a "magic mirror" that reflects the world in a new light. He also compares it to a "fairy tale" that can transport us to a different realm. These metaphors not only add depth to the poem but also make it more accessible to the reader.

The poem then takes a turn as the speaker reflects on his own mortality. He acknowledges that, like all things in life, poetry will eventually come to an end. He says that when he is gone, his poems will remain, but they will be read by people who never knew him. This realization is both humbling and poignant, as it highlights the fleeting nature of life and the enduring power of art.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker acknowledges that, despite the fact that his poems will outlive him, they will eventually be forgotten. He says that his words will be "as if they had never been." This realization is a sobering one, as it reminds us that even the most powerful works of art are ultimately ephemeral.

Overall, "Poetry Afterwards" is a masterful work of poetry that captures the essence of the poet's craft and the impact it has on the reader. Hardy's use of language and imagery is particularly striking, and his reflections on mortality and the fleeting nature of art are both humbling and poignant. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry and the importance of art in our lives.

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