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In Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The Darkling Thrush,” the narrator vividly describes the decaying world and the direct effect it has on their mental well-being, as well as how their depression harms their worldview. For example, the narrator says: “The land’s sharp features seemed to be / The Century’s corpse outleant,” (Hardy, lines 9-10), emphasizing the connection between the earth and the century. Thus, the quote suggests that nature’s deterioration is what the Century left upon coming to an end. The narrator adds:
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I. (Hardy 13-16)
Hardy is implying that the narrator projects their sorrow on their surroundings and its inhabitants. Abruptly, the narrator’s outlook shifts dramatically as a bird starts to sing, and they describe it as: “a full-hearted evensong / Of joy illimited” (Hardy 19). The narrator is no longer focusing on the dreary landscape, but on the positivity and faith that they associate with the singing bird. The poem ends with the following verse: “Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew / And I was unaware” (Hardy 31-32), indicating that, although the narrator is unable to feel the blessing and faith that the bird does, they are now aware of it. The change of tone in the poem suggests that the narrator’s positive perspective is long-term.
In Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The Dead Man Walking,” the narrator is upset due to a series of traumatic experiences that make them realize the corruption that exists in the world. Towards the beginning of the poem, the narrator explains that realizing “The goals of men,” (Hardy, line 22), which symbolizes corruption and reality, negatively affects their mental health. That experience is the start of their mental numbness. As the poem progresses, the narrator says: When passed my friend, my kinsfolk, Through the Last Door, And left me standing bleakly, I died yet more; (Hardy 25-28)The quote above uses “the Last Door” (Hardy 26) as a symbol for death, suggesting that the narrator’s close-friend and family members died. Finally, near the end of the poem, the narrator comments: “And when my Love’s heart kindled / In hate of me, / Wherefore I knew not, died I” (Hardy 29-31). The prior verse suggests that the narrator’s lover suddenly leaves them, and the narrator does not understand why, which causes them to die inside. All of the reasons that add-on to the narrator’s numbness emphasize that Hardy thinks reality is harmful to a person’s mental health and that life is cruel.3. Wilfred Owen’s “Anthem for the Doomed Youth” depicts the horrifying realities of war and has a powerful anti-war message. For example, the first verse of the poem reads: “What passing-bells for the who die as cattle? / – Only the monstrous anger of the guns” (Owen, lines 1-2). Owen is asking the readers to contemplate what commemoration is adequate for soldiers who face death at such a ruthless level. By presenting such a question and following it with the stark reality of the situation, Owen implies that there is no type of commemoration that is truly enough. In the last three lines of the poem, the narrator solemnly comments: “The pallor of the girls’ brows shall be their pall; / Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, / And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds” (Owen 12-14). The ending tone is sorrowful, as the narrator alludes that the only people who remember the dead soldiers are their girlfriends, wives, and their families who are left with a deep longing for the soldiers to return home. In contrast, the imagery that Owen creates with phrases like “slow dusk” (14) and “drawing-down of blinds” (14) emphasize that it is a definite goodbye. Overall, Owen’s poem emphasizes the grueling death that the soldiers endure, and what follows after, considering not just the war zone, but the soldier’s family.