Discuss the following poem - Sample Essay

A Thunderstorm in Town is a reminiscence of a time Hardy spent with a woman to whom he had became drawn, Florence Henniker. His affection towards her is shown in several ways, including his noting of the ‘terra-cotta’ detail of her dress (which shows how he was mesmerized, and ‘terra-cotta’, having a connotation of nature, implies that his love for her was natural – and fresh, implied by the adjective ‘new’ – perhaps unlike that which he had for his wife Emma), and the line ‘We sat on, snug and warm’, showing his attachment, as he regards this moment as one of intimacy.

This affection also affects the passage of time in the poem; as they sat ‘motionless’, it feels as if time has stopped, the ‘pelting storm’ and rain (which establishes a sense of melancholy) stops in their presence, showing the power his affection held over him. Furthermore, the ‘ABAAB’ rhyme scheme of this stanza symbolizes his heart skipping a beat, as is often said of one who is in love. However, this mood of affection is in stark contrast to the sudden shift in the second stanza, where the storm stops to his ‘sharp sad pain’, and his comfort and warmth of the previous stanza vanish with the storm.

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Examining the structure of this line (‘Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain’) closely, it can be seen that there was a brief pause (comma) after the storm ended, followed by a sudden thrust of pain. The ‘ABBAB’ rhyme scheme of this stanza creates rhythmic symmetry about this line and the last line of the first stanza, further reinforcing the idea that the pain of this line was ‘thrusted’ into his heart, breaking it and causing it to skip yet another beat as suggested by the rhyme scheme, only this time in pain instead of blissful affection.

The ‘glass’ in the next line implies the physical and emotional weakness he felt after she, seemingly without a moment’s hesitation, ‘sprang’ to her door (and in doing so would be sealed away from him). Hardy ends the poem with by conveying an immense sense of regret (for not making his feelings known to Henniker and not acting upon the opportunity he had) in the last two lines: ‘I should have kissed her if the rain / Had lasted a minute more’.

The shift in mood between the two stanzas conveys the ramifications of this missed opportunity, and is in fact foreshadowed by the words ‘pelting’ and ‘dry’ in the first stanza, which have connotations of pain. This is evidence that Hardy may have anticipated this gloomy ending to his attraction to Henniker, especially when considering that she was religious, conflicting with Hardy’s atheism, and already married, thus out of his reach. The ending of this poem is, therefore, one of tragic sadness, showing not only how his hopelessness prevented him from acting before she left, but also the regret he feels for not using this opportunity.

The reader is left with the image of his brokenness, and the sad, final thought that, while his feelings for, and thoughts about her had gone on, ‘lasted a minute more’, the storm which enabled their closeness (shown in the line ‘We sat on snug and warm’) did not. The indents in the last lines of both stanzas subtly but effectively convey to the reader the emotional damage inflicted upon him by unrequited love, as they imply that it has left a hole in his heart.

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