Analysis of Thomas Hardy's sonnet "She, to Him (iii)"

Essay, 2010

5 Pages, Grade: 2,3

Free online reading

Rouven Dirb

Second assessed analysis

Thomas Hardy „She, to Him (iii)“

The sonnet „She, to Him (iii)“, written by Thomas Hardy, consists of fourteen lines, which makes it a typical sonnet. Moreover the sonnet has three quatrains and one final couplet, which is the form of a Shakespearean sonnet (abab cdcd efef gg).

Except for line one and three, the rhyme scheme of the sonnet is an alternating one, which is due to the fact that it is (abab) instead of (abba). In line one and three it seems as if there was a half-rhyme (will – domicile), but due to the OED pronunciations this one and the others are all full-rhymes.

Every line in this sonnet consists of ten syllables each, if you read words like “memory” (line 12), “wondering” (line 2) or “ever” (line 4) in a more colloquial way (e.g. mem-ry instead of mem-o-ry).

The metre in this sonnet is “unstressed – stressed”, which makes it an iamb and because it has ten syllables in each line it makes it an iambic pentameter, which means that there are five iambs in each line.

Thomas Hardy frequently uses enjambments in his sonnet, which means that there is no full stop, comma or semicolon at the end of the line and that the meaning of the line is carried into the following one. All in all six enjambments can be found throughout the sonnet (line 2-3, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 8-9 and 11-12).

The author uses four alliterations in his sonnet, beginning in line three (did...discern...domicile). The next alliteration can be found in line ten (kissed...canker came), followed by line twelve (mind...memory...making). The last alliteration is found in line fourteen (left...Love...look).

There are also repetitions in the beginning of the sentences. These repetitions are the conjunction “And” (line two and fourteen) and the pronoun “I” (line one and five).

Another stylistic device that can be found in Hardy's Sonnet is the personification. The author personifies “Death” (line 2), “Now” (line 11), “Life” (line 12) and “Love” (line 14) in order to stress their importance in the sonnet, but I will come back to the importance of the personifications later on during my analysis of the content.

The speaker in this sonnet is clearly a first person speaker, due to the frequent use of personal pronouns like “I” (line 1), “me” (line 2) and “my” (line 13), who addresses her / his loved one, who is presumably gone. In addition to that we can assume that the speaker is either a female or a homosexual man, because the speaker refers to the “prime of manhood”, in which he / she is not interested. But due to the fact that the the title of the sonnet is called “She, to Him (iii)”, I would rather stick to my theory of a female speaker.

The mood and the tone of the sonnet equals the mood of the speaker. She is melancholic and full of resignation but is still passionate and committed when she speaks about her lost love. In line one we find a first fact for her commitment when she says that she will be faithful to her addressee. Later on she says that she is not interested in friends, kin or the prime of manhood, which is another fact for the passion and the commitment she feels for the addressee. Her sadness can be found in the final couplet, where she says that her old “dexterities” are gone and there is nothing left at her to look upon, which not only confirms my thesis of her sadness and resignation, but also confirms my thesis of an aged woman.

In my opinion Thomas Hardy's sonnet “She, to Him (iii)” deals with an aged woman who lost her one true love. Right in the beginning she confirms to her love, that she is not interested in any other relationship than the one she lost (“I will be faithful to thee; aye, I will!”). From lines two to four she states that she has lost interest in life the day her love died. The personification of “Death” in line two makes “Death” not the process of dying but gives it a more figurative sense in form of a grim reaper. The grim reaper has never lost track on her (“That he did not discern and domicile”) and was always watching over her and waiting for the moment she actually dies. Her will to live or her soul has died along with her love and she is only waiting for her body to lay to rest (One his by right ever since that last Good-bye!). She is at the border of dying and the grim reaper finally arrives to take her, who has become his the day her love died, with him (“And Death shall choose me with a wondering eye”). The “wondering eye”, mentioned before, is a fact for the death of her soul some time ago. The grim reaper realized that she lost her will to life and only waited for the moment her body would give up. Now, at the time her body is actually dying, he comes to her, almost asking if the moment has really come.

Line five to six deals with her commitment and her passion again. She says that she is not interested in any kind of relationship, whether it might be a friendship, a romance or even family (“I have no care for friends, or kin, or prime of manhood”). Her commitment for her lost love even goes so far, that she wants to be completely left alone. She is not willing to accept any help (“...who deal gently with me here;”) and wants to be alone for the rest of her life. We can conclude from that, that she is either so depressed by the loss of her loved one that she's just waiting to die, or that she is a very proud woman, who wants to keep her pride even if she would need some help.

The next three lines deal with her resignation as well. She sees herself in a group of happy elder people who want to fall in love again or keep their relationships going and end their lives happily. Even though she sees herself in that group, she does not see herself as a member of that group (“Amid the happy people of my time who work their love's fulfilment, I appear numb as a vane that cankers on its point,”). The group of happy people she sees herself in, is indeed the group of people she mentioned before: all the people she has no care about. She does not want to move on with her life. She wants to die alone to be with her lost love again, namely like a vane that cankers.

In the next line she adds more passion to her last statement by saying that her numbness and her decay began when her love had gone (“True to the wind that kissed ere canker came:”). The wind is a metaphor for her loved one, to whom she will stay true. She hints that there was no sign of decay or sadness in her, when she was with her loved one and after he had gone, her “canker” began.

Line eleven and twelve explain her relation to the people that she does not care for: It is a mutual relationship. As much as she tries to be left alone, the other people despise her. As I said before she has lost her will to live and is just waiting for death to come. Her mind lives in the past with her dead love, wanting to be with him again. She cannot understand how the other people are able to separate their minds from their memories (Despised by souls of Now, who would disjoint the mind from memory”). Moreover she is not able to understand how they can go on with their lives and not living in the past (“making life all aim,”). She is trapped in memories and has no care for her life as it is today and is therefore despised by all the others who cannot understand her living in her memories of the past.

The final couplet of the sonnet does not stand as a turning point in this case. It is more a punchline, which strengthens the speaker's point that has been made throughout the poem. She mentions that even if she wanted to life in the present there would be nothing that would make her interesting anymore (“My old dexterities in witchery gone, and nothing left for Love to look upon”). That is a clear fact for her pride, which I mentioned before. She is not able to see anything good in her aging. Her dexterity and her beauty have gone lost over the process of aging and therefore she cannot see why she would have to move on with her life. She would rather be dead than to live in such a “shame”.

At first glance Thomas Hardy's “She, to Him (iii)” is a classical Shakespearean sonnet. But if we look close enough we can find some specialties in it. The sonnet is an enumeration of facts, which makes living in the present for an elder woman uninteresting. She brings up a number of arguments which almost sound like a justification. All of her arguments against living in the present are cleverly separated from each other. Every argument that is longer than one line is connected to the following one/s with an enjambement. Punctuation marks are only set when an argument is over and the next one comes up. The heroic couplet is the exception in my theory, because it is separated with a comma. That can be described, due to the fact that there are two punchlines, that would lose their strength if they were combined. Due to the separation of the two lines the message of the couplet gains more significance.

Another interesting writing technique is the personification Thomas Hardy used four times in his sonnet. It may seem that he did it without a purpose, because the adjustment of the personifications seems a bit loose. After reading close enough you will recognize that all the personifications, except for “Death”, which, as I said, stands for the personification of the grim reaper, are things that the speaker of the sonnet despises. “Life”, “Love” and “Now” are three points she made clear she is not interested in anymore, because her loved one is gone.

A typical Shakespearean sonnet from that time period is written in form of a male speaker who is trying to seduce the girl he loves so much. In the case of “She, to Him (iii)” it is very different. First of all it is a female speaker whose addressee is her gone lover. Secondly she is not trying to seduce anyone with this sonnet. She rather wants to be left alone and writes this sonnet to her dead lover as a form of troth. All these facts make Thomas Hardy's “She, to Him (iii)” a very special Shakespearean sonnet.

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Analysis of Thomas Hardy's sonnet "She, to Him (iii)"
Technical University of Darmstadt  (Institut für Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft)
The Sonnet
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Thomas Hardy, Sonnet, Shakespearean Sonnet, English Sonnet, She to Him III, She to Him, Hardy
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Rouven Dirb (Author), 2010, Analysis of Thomas Hardy's sonnet "She, to Him (iii)", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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