Thomas Hardy in his poem ‘The Voice’ deals with the theme of the consequences of grief and loss. He addresses this theme by means of examining his own feelings at his wife’s death, his wish to relive the past, his wish to be reunited with her and his feelings of despair and hopelessness at what life has become for him without her. To convey his theme to the reader, Hardy uses a range of language and literary devices such as juxtaposition, varied line length, sound devices, imagery, connotation, word choice, rhetorical question and repetition.
In the first stanza Thomas Hardy illustrates his great grief at the loss of his wife. He misses her a great deal and senses that she is calling out to him. He longs for her and longs to be with her. The depth of his grief is clear from the use of the word ‘much’ in “woman much missed” and the repetition of “you call to me”. A consequence of his grief and loss is that he believes she calls to him and that she has changed back to the girl he first met and married and when they were happy, “when our day was fair.” Grief clearly has a great impact on individuals.
In the second stanza he questions whether he is literally hearing from her. He answers his own question with the request to see her once again standing by the town in the ‘air blue gown’ that he clearly remembers so well. In his grief Thomas Hardy wishes to ignore time and see his wife as she was when they first met. Grief causes individuals to hope for miracles, so that loneliness and despair can be overcome.
In the third stanza Thomas Hardy accepts reluctantly that he is not hearing his wife’s voice but merely the breeze across the field or ‘mead’. Here diction and negative connotations show his acceptance that she is dead. He describes the breeze that he mistook for her voice as ‘listless’ reflecting his own unmotivated state of mind without her. His acceptance that he will never see her again is summed up in the line, ‘dissolved to wan wistlessness’. She is dissolved or dead and her voice merely an echo of his despairing state of mind. The alliteration of ‘wan wistlessness’ provides a long, slow sound reflecting how difficult it has been for him to get over the death of his wife and to carry on. The whole of the third stanza is in the form of a rhetorical question illustrating his awareness of their permanent separation, but his reluctance to accept it. Clearly grief leads to a sense of despair and hopelessness
The final stanza uses shorter lines to show that he knows he has to move on and carry on with life, but that the process is difficult summed up by both the diction and alliteration of ‘faltering forward’. The ‘I’ sound suggesting s painful movements with the likelihood of falling or stumbling. The setting and mood are bleak and anticipate withering and dying, “leaves around me falling”. The “wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward” underlines the difficulty and pain of moving onward with nothing to look forward to. Grief had him construct hope in his mind of her calling and him seeing her as she was when they first knew each other and were most in love, but he has had to face up to the bleak reality of life without her and the poem ends on a note of suffering and despair with memories providing no comfort.
Grief led to the construction of hope. But this ‘fair’ thought of turning back the clock was but a fancy and individuals have to face up to reality and the inexorable march of time.