Nesbit Likes: During Wind and Rain by Thomas Hardy

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To put it bluntly, everything must come to an end. All life will extinguish at some point. 25-30 years if you’re a horse, 150 years if you’re a tortoise.

Hardy accepts this in sturdy poetry. In four stanzas, we’re given a pleasant image, flavoured in rhyme and positive imagery. Then, each stanza rounds in despair, the loss of life, the weight of change. The consistent stanza length furthers the inevitable loss and decay. The seasons come and go, bringing in their bodies happiness and laughter, and in their departures sadness and grief.

But to call this a tragic poem is, I think, a mistake. Upon my first discovery, x many years ago, I focused on all the negativity. I assume most people would, what with the repeated verbal cries, shattering the perfect pictures. The final ‘sick leaves’, how the ‘rotten rose is ript from the wall’; despite the majority being in light, the rounding two lines of each stanza carry more gravity than the rest. And whilst it seems to be Hardy’s intention, to highlight how things must come to an end, that’s not to be taken as a bad thing.

Although we may see death as the main theme, family, love, and happy times are of more importance. Yes, the poem ends with the narrator stood amongst tombstones. Yes, it’s during wind and rain, harshly reiterating the many years passed. But there’s a note of optimism. The use of the word ‘ploughs’, hanging on until the last minute, brings forth the images of agriculture, of renewed land, fresh soil. New life. This isn’t an end but rather the story of this person, and their surroundings, moving onto another chapter. Tolkien perfectly captures this through Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings:

No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.

Those moments, singing, gardening, being with family, they are gone. The memories, however, are certainly not. They are cemented in our brains, never to be changed with season, for us to cherish in the future as we move on from the past.


During Wind and Rain

They sing their dearest songs—
He, she, all of them—yea,
Treble and tenor and bass,
And one to play;
With the candles mooning each face …
Ah, no; the years O!
How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!

They clear the creeping moss—
Elders and juniors—aye,
Making the pathways neat
And the garden gay;
And they build a shady seat…
Ah, no; the years, the years;
See the white storm-birds wing across!

They are blithely breakfasting all—
Men and maidens—yea,
Under the summer tree,
With a glimpse of the bay,
While pet fowl come to the knee…
Ah, no; the years O!
And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.

They change to a high new house,
He, she, all of them—aye,
Clocks and carpets and chairs
On the lawn all day,
And brightest things that are theirs…
Ah, no; the years, the years;
Down their carved names the rain-drop ploughs.

Powerful Themes – Time, Memory and Love

Time, memory and love are some of the top, most prominent themes in writing. They are regularly the key topic when it comes to a story or otherwise an umbrella theme for others. One reason why I actively seek stories which encompass and explore these themes is because they’re universal. Every human being to have ever lived will have experienced some form of love, memory and without a doubt, a sense of time. Whether these things are in an abundance of or a lack of, they’re relatable, understandable and translate across all mediums of art.

Below, I’ve compiled a small list of my favourite pieces where these themes synergise and flourish. Some old and some young, they are complete masterpieces in my eyes and I’d highly recommend reading or watching them when you get the chance. Most of them I’m sure people have heard of but if there’s one that’s new to you, I’d be happy to have shared a great piece of art.

In no particular order…

Poem: During Wind and Rain
by Thomas Hardy (1917)

“And the rotten rose is ript from the wall.”

Any fans of Hardy will know that his poems carry immense weight. Give this a read if you haven’t – it depicts four stanzas of seasons each detailing fond memories of his family which end with the change of season, bringing with it disturbing images and unsetting scenes which eradicate the love and memories that were once there. Time is obviously the feared enemy here; although arguably the thoughts are irrational, Hardy nevertheless is installed with fear for what will inevitably arrive and erase. This list has started with a storm but it’s near perfect.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
by Michel Gordy  and Charlie Kaufman (2012)

“What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that she’s a stranger.”

I wish I had written this film – it’s beautiful. Jim Carrey (Joel) and Kate Winslet (Clementine) play opposite each other in this relationship drama with a dollop of comedy. Memory and love are more of the core themes whereas time plays more as form of narrative. After a sour time spent as girlfriend and boyfriend, Clementine decides to play the full house and erase Joel from her memory. I’d say the rest writes itself but it really doesn’t – there is nothing cliché in this story and it’s originality has made it an outstanding film. There’s a lot of surprises in this and the way the story is told is unlike any other. It’s creativity at its best. I’ll add – it’s got of my favourite title sequences in a film, too.

Play: Krapp’s Last Tape
by Samuel Beckett (1958)

“When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.”

I’m a huge Beckett fan, if it wasn’t obvious already. This play is the epitome of the tri-fusion of the themes time, memory and love. It’s very much the introvert play by Beckett and it dives deep into the personal life and memories of Krapp. The entire play is him listening to versions of his younger selves on a tape recorder; they play back his memories and he relives his days of youth – not necessarily with happiness. Of course, it includes the absurdist themes Beckett is famous for and a few funny moments, but the delivery in his piece, the depth at which the writing it goes, is monumental. It’s sewn with regret, sorrow and grief – it’s a haunting piece. The filmed version with John Hurt depicts this character brilliantly.

I’ve linked the script in the title. I implore you to give the play a quick search in your local theatres and see if there’s a production of it (or watch the John Hurt version) – this is a piece to see.

Short film: Yearbook by
Bernardo Britto (2014)
(Apologies, can’t find a link to this!)

This short film has stuck with me since it first came out. Even though memory definitely seems to be the prominent theme, time has gone hand in hand with it – and there’s a pinch of love. It’s beautifully animated with some very quirky scenes and it’s accompanied by a delicate, memorable piece from Matthew Cooper. It’s the ultimate heartstring tugger and I’m very happy to have stumbled upon it. I don’t want to give too much away, I think it’s best to just dive in and absorb – if you haven’t seen it, please take 5 minutes of your time to give this a watch. It has massively influenced my writing.

I hope there’s something new here for someone. I understand my fascination with these themes may not rub off onto everyone else as people might perhaps think they’re exhausted topics. But for me, they never will be. As I mentioned before, there’s infinite ways to tell stories with each of these themes because they’re unique to the individual.