Hardy wrote “During the wind and rain” in 1917, five years after his wife Emma Hardy’s death in 1912. Like lots of his poetry after her death, Thomas Hardy’s poem reminisces Emma’s life. In this poem Hardy focuses on her family and the inevitability of death.
All four stanzas have a repeating format. There are five lines painting a happy scene followed by two lines full of sadness and grief in juxtaposition to the first half to starkly contrast the two emotions. An eclipse that illustrates the passage of time separates the two halves of the poem. The rhyme scheme repeats itself between the stanzas as opposed to the lines, which reinforces the feeling of inevitability. The penultimate line is repeated through the stanzas as well as an exclamation of sadness: “Ah, no; the years”
In the first stanza Hardy describes the family singing with “one to play” while “the candles” are “mooning each face”. This first part of the stanza is happy as the family is “singing their dearest songs”. Then the stanza changes after an eclipse that Hardy uses to show the passage of time. The happiness in the stanza is overshadowed by the grief in the final two lines. The final line especially is the most ominous. The “sick leaves” foreshadow disease and death, which is reinforced by how they “reel down in throngs”. The word “reel” also has connotations of illness as a person might reel when feeling faint or ill. The word “reel” also means a Scottish or Irish dance. This creates a strange contrast in sad final lines. The word “throngs” is used to express the multitude of the leaves falling down which creates an image of uncontrollable death and passing time.
In the second stanza Hardy continues the theme of happiness overshadowed by the ominous passage of time. Hardy subtly reinforces the inevitability of death by adding the difference of age into the second stanza. Since both “Elders and juniors” are mentioned in the poem it seems that Hardy is indicating that both groups are affected by the underlying theme of the poem, which is time. Their happiness is shown through how they make “the garden gay” and the “pathways neat” which illustrates cleaning and decorating, activities usually reserved for happy times.
However the word “creeping” has subtle undertones of unstoppable power of the time. It also comes with connotations of sneaking up on you unawares. The contrasting final two lines mention “storm-birds” which ominously foreshadows the coming of a storm, or ‘Wind and Rain’ that the birds are flying from.
In the third stanza Hardy shows the coming storm values equality, by adding “men and maidens”. This once again reinforces the theme that no one, “men and maidens” or “elders and juniors” is safe from the oncoming death. The first half of the third stanza is the happiest yet, which contrasts to how this is the stanza that the storm arrives. The family is “blithely breakfasting” which has connotations of ignorant bliss, while “under the summer tree” which shows off their happiness similar to the season. The last line shows the arrival of the storm as the “rotten rose is ript from the wall”. This alliteration of the w/r sound illustrates the violence and unexpectedness of the attack. The word “rotten” has connotations of ruined beauty, mixed with the stench of death. The fury conveyed in the word “ript” conveys feelings of suddenness that is reinforced by how close this is to when they had “a glimpse of the bay while pet fowl come to knee”.
The final stanza is the saddest as it mixes the arrival of death with the uselessness of materialism after we are all dead and gone. The first stanza seems to be the happiest as the family “change to a high new house”, until the reader realises this is a euphemism for heaven. The repeated line from stanza one : “He she all of them – aye” shows us how none of the happy family we met in the first stanza were spared the wrath of the storm. The next three lines show off how a materialist perspective of life ends up in nothing. All their possessions, their “clocks and carpets and chairs” are being sold “on the lawn all day”. The word “clocks” is once again subtly referencing the theme of time. Even the “brightest things that are theirs” are not going to reminisce about their old owners but rather settle down to a new family. The word “brightest” gives the impression that everything that is worthwhile or valuable to the family is sold and almost forgotten when they die. It also links our thoughts to heaven, where everything is bright. Everything this family might of valued themselves by is worthless to them in their “high new house”.
The final line in the final stanza in the saddest yet, as it confirms their demise. The weather is used to subtly affect feeling as the stereotypically sad rain “ploughs” “down their carved names”. The tombstone reference completes the poem with a final stroke that ends the play as we realize the family’s lives too have ended.
“During the Wind And Rain” has three main themes: the inevitability of time and how death comes with that hand in hand, how no one is special enough to be exempt from death, and finally how material possessions are worthless while overshadowed by oncoming storm. Winter is coming.
By Joseph Shailer