Poems of Thomas Hardy are filled with diverse elements of figurative language (metaphors, symbols, and paradox) and contain interesting sound patterns. “The man he killed”, “The ivy-wife”, and “Her immortality” are written to be heard and Thomas Hardy has succeeded in delivering the message through sounds of the words. These poems belong to lyric pattern and follow formal structure. Every word he used is important and was included not by mistake, but to convey a special meaning.
“The man he killed” by Thomas Hardy contains metaphors, simile, symbols, allegory, allusion, and irony. The phrases “ranged as infantry”, “as he at me”, and “just as I” are metaphors. Hardy used phrases “as he” and “as I” (simile) to compare the actions – one of them being successfully executed while another being a failure. The poet has skillfully described the essence of war using an example of two individuals. Hardy has used the words “quaint and curios” to describe the war. These two words are elements of irony and paradox because they initially covey a positive meaning which can hardly be used to describe the war. “The man he killed” is full of symbols and allusion. The opening paragraph contains phrases “old ancient inn”, “wet”, and “nipperkin” which carry symbolic meaning and allusion to the ancient times of war. Even though the title clearly indicates the theme of the poem (killing the man), the first paragraph is rather positive.
“I shot him dead because – because he was my foe, just so: my foe of course he was”. Hardy repeated the phrase that man he killed was his enemy, his foe, as if he wanted to justify the murder. This element of figurative language is not allusion or allegory, but a direct explanation. The reference towards the killed person differs through the poem: the title contains “man”, the middle part states “foe”, while the closing section includes “fellow”. This symbolic element was employed with the purpose to show the reader that everybody was equal at war: if you did not kill, you would be killed instead.
The tone of the poem, attitude of the author towards himself and the subject, is conveyed through verbal music. Repetition and variation are widely employed by Hardy to stress the meaning of some words. For example, the repeated words are “because”, “foe”, and “shoot” - these three words are the only ones repeated in a poem. If to put these words into line (shoot foe because), it becomes the major theme hidden between the lines. Hardy did not employ alliteration or consonance, however, elements of assonance can be traced through out the poem: “The man he killed”. In particular, “ranged as infantry”, “fellow down”, “him in his”, “foe of course”, and “face to face”.
“The ivy-wife” poem is very similar in figurative language and sound patterns to the poem “The man he killed”, however, greater emphasis is made on metaphors and symbols. The most evident figurative language element is personification: Hardy has given the attributes of a person to the ivy-tree. Moreover, the poet used phrases “soft green claw”, “stretched an arm within his reach”, “he in trust received my love”, “without his rivalry”, and “I longed to love a full-boughed beech” to describe a tree as if it was alive, as if it could reach, had claws, and could be a rival. The poem’s language is very descriptive and contains numerous metaphors and similes. The comparison of a branch with a “green claw” is a metaphor because this comparison is logical. While the comparison of a tree with “one of another race” and “wife” is simile because Hardy compared two things which were not alike from any perspective.
Interestingly, the title of the poem is “The ivy-wife” while through the poem the poet refers to a tree as “he”, even though it should be either “it” or “she”. Moreover, the poet repeatedly uses “he” while addressing a tree as if he wants the reader to pay special attention to this element. The phrases “I signaled unity” and “I gave the grasp of partnership”, while the tree “tried to poison me” are figurative elements of irony. It is possible to draw an allusion to relationships between a man and a woman, when one partner contributes to relations while another does not accept the unity. The poem contains such musical devices as alliteration, assonance, and consonance. “Boughed beech”, “gave the grasp”, “one of other”, “ bough to base”, “gone my grip”, “fall felled”, “being bark-bound”, and “new affection next” are elements of alliteration (the first letter of words is repeated). While phrases “within his reach”, “with his drip”, “gave the grasp”, and “flagged, snapped” are assonance sound pattern.
The poem “Her immortality” is longer than “The man he killed” and “The ivy-tree” and is richer in figurative language. The opening paragraph contains a strong metaphor: “upon the place where I last saw my dead Love’s living smile”. Hardy used words “living” and “dead”, which are opposite and self-exclusive, in one sentence to describe the same person. “It seemed as if my body pressed the very ground she trod” – the poet employed literal allegory in this passage to strengthen the meaning of the message. Hardy used the following words to refer to a woman who died: “she”, “shade”, and “one of all”. Following the words pronounced by a “shade”, the emotional appeals could be traced in every line. Hardy was very careful with the word choice in this poem. He has used the words which are not usually employed in constructions of this type. The sentence “I’ll guard me from minutest harms that may invest my ways” is symbolic and the words “guard” and “invest” seem not to fit into it. “Her immortality” is not based on specific sound patterns and the major emphasis is made on figurative language rather than sound and tone. Hardy has aimed at and succeeded in creating an emotional piece of literature rather than descriptive. There is no alliteration and no consonance found in a poem.
“The ivy-wife”, “The man he killed”, and “Her immortality” are written by the same poet, Thomas Hardy, however, each poem contains its unique literary elements which are not found in other. The poem “The man he killed” contains diverse similes and allusion. The poem “The ivy-wife” is composed using personification and metaphors. Finally, the poem “Her immortality” is filled with allegory and metonymy. The literal analysis of three poems revealed interesting sound patterns underlining the strength of specific words and phrases.