Monday, October 22, 2012

An Explication on "Hap"

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Regina R. White

British Lit II

An Explication of Thomas Hardy’s Poem, “Hap”

Thomas Hardy’s English sonnet “Hap” expresses how human destiny is ruled by chance, and how the narrator of this poem is confused by the idea of chance. The narrator uses various poetic techniques such as sound devices and figurative language. Throughout this poem, Hardy shows readers the struggle between the unexplainable and the explainable world.

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In the first stanza of the poem the narrator is struggling with something painful, all though it is not apparent what that struggle is

If but some vengeful god would call to me

From up the sky and laugh “Thou suffering thing,

Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,

That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting! (1-4)

The word vengeful in the first line means to seek revenge, and if god was trying to seek revenge on him, that would raise the question about who and what god is in this stanza. Hardy uses both visual and auditory images that relate to the alliteration in this poem. The narrator uses alliteration to emphasize the harsh “S” sound in words such as suffering, sorrow, and ecstasy in this first stanza. The “S” sound in these three words sound like a snake’s hiss. A snake is usually associated with something evil and something that is sneaky and creeps up on a person. This idea is almost the same as chance. Chance creeps up on you when you least expect it.

As the narrator moves into the second stanza, the reader begins to see the confusion unfolding. The narrator says, “Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die” (5). The narrator uses the word “it” to show the reader that he is still unsure of what “it” is; he is confused. However, because of the title of the poem “Hap” which translates into chance, the reader know that the “it” is chance.

In line 7, the narrator uses the word “Half-eased” showing that he would not be fully satisfied, especially since, like chance, the god’s anger would be “unmerited”(6) Unmerited means undeserved, and shows the struggle that the narrator has to understand something that is not explained. For example, the narrator is trying to understand why his fictional god would cause him so much pain.

The poet uses visual images in line 8 to show the pain that narrator feels. “The tears I shed”(8), does not tell the reader exactly what the narrator’s pains are, but it let the reader know whatever he is going through is causing him pain. “Clench myself”(5) is another visual image. The reader can see the narrator tension as he bears the pain and “dies”(5).

In the first two stanzas the narrator’s tone is compelled to some type of hope, but as the reader enters the third stanza the narrators tone changes, almost purposely. Reality hits him. After two stanzas of wishing he could point the finger at his fate, he mournfully concludes

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,

And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?

-Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,

And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan….

These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown

Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain. (-14)

In line the narrator personifies joy as if it were a person and were killed. Joy is a state of delight and in this line joy is like a burden and it should not be. It is showing the pain and the turmoil that narrator is going through. In line 10 the narrator uses a metaphor to compare hope as if it were a flower and could not bloom. Another word for hope is expectation. A person’s expectation should grow in a positive way, but here hope is not blooming at all. Crass Casualty in line 11 is also personified. Crass Casualty is a bodily injury or death that pure chance causes, and the narrator mentions that it “blocks the sun and rain.” These are all questions that the narrators ask and they confirm his state of confusion.

English sonnets, usually focus on the topic of love, but not this one. The poem “Hap” focuses on chance and how everything is ruled by chance. Readers can see this idea through the many poetic techniques that Thomas Hardy uses through out the poem using sound devices and figurative language, to show the narrators struggle between the explained and the unexplained.



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