Memory is very important in relation to Thomas Hardy’s poems as he has a very limited amount of themes which he uses. Although he wrote thousands of poems, his themes are limited to those of death, regret, love, nostalgia, reminiscence, and missed opportunities. All these themes are linked with his memories, and his past. At the beginning of the 20th Century, there was a growing discord between him and his wife Emma. They had met at Cornwall when Hardy was an architect. He stayed for several days at the place where Emma lived and they walked and rode together. Four years later they fell in love and married. At first the marriage seemed to be a success, but as the years unfolded, Emma became increasingly jealous of Hardy’s success. When they both moved into Max Gate, a house which Hardy had designed they were living separate lives under one roof. At the end of 1912, when Emma suddenly died, Hardy was shocked and stricken with remorse, and this resulted in his outpouring of poems soon after this time. Under the Waterfall seems quite a happy and joyous poem by Hardy’s standards. There is a change of discourse in this poem which makes it stand out from his others from the same time period. The poem discusses happy times which he is remembering, when he and Emma were much closer. “The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day” It was almost as if the two of them had run away to happier times. Hardy goes on to discuss the small waterfall which they found and how this waterfall reflects the endlessness of memories. “the purl runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdom, in war, in peaces.” Just like the river will flow over the fall for eternity, his memories will run through his mind for his whole life, his eternity. Hardy sets up this idyllic picture of his surroundings as he travels around them and sees places that he and his wife had been in the past, for example, the place where they stopped to have a picnic and dropped a glass into the water, where it still remains when Hardy revisits. The poem has a very relaxed and peaceful atmosphere, as this must have been how it felt for Hardy when he was actually there with his ‘lover’. There are religious connotations introduced at the end with the glass that fell in the water being described as a ‘chalice’. “there lies intact that chalice of ours,
and its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.” These few lines are powerful as the omnipresent splashing of the waterfall is described as singing the rhyme of love to Hardy and Emma as they sat there together. The whole poem is based upon the experiences of Hardy and his vivid memories of that time. He remembers so much detail of the occasion that it is clear that memories like this perpetually lived on in Hardy’s mind. The poem ‘Your Last Drive’ has a completely different tone to ‘Under The Waterfall’ as it was written after the death of Emma and his sorrowfulness plainly comes across.
The first stanza is Hardy reflecting on the fact that he didn’t have any idea that this would be the last time she would be driving as she would be dead soon. “…all undiscerned” In the next stanza it is ironic that Emma passes the place where she was to be buried a few weeks later, and would be ‘halted everlastingly’. Hardy expresses deep regret within the poem that he wasn’t with Emma on this drive and that he didn’t spend more time with her when he could. “I drove not with you…” Hardy wishes he could have seen her face and realised that she was soon to be dead as he partly blames himself for her not being with him anymore. In the last stanza Hardy realises that she has gone and believes that she is passed ‘love, praise. Indifference, and blame’ and that she doesn’t really care anymore about those things. This poem is an outpouring of grief from Hardy towards Emma which was only aroused by her death. He wishes now that he had realised his feelings towards Emma before she had left him. Another good example of Hardy feeling like this is ‘The Walk’ in which he truly expresses his loneliness. He remembers a walk he had always done alone as Emma didn’t have the stamina for the brisk walk up the hill. “And I went alone, and I did not mind,
not thinking of you as left behind.” Hardy didn’t mind walking along the gated country road alone as he knew she would be at home when he got back, but in the second stanza, the reader is jumped to the present when Hardy is up the hill but it doesn’t feel the same as it once did. Now that he knows she has gone he feels the full loneliness of the hill. “what’s the difference, then?
Only the underlying sense
Of the look of a room on returning thence.” Hardy doesn’t want to really go home because he knows how the emptiness will feel. Hardy’s stories are what all his poems are around, whether they are about waterfalls, or his walks alone. After Emma’s death, when he was full of grief and regret I think that memories were the most important thing to Hardy, as they were all he had of her, so he used these memories to write his poems about happier times and of Emma when she was alive to try and make her spirit live on after death.