Unsurprisingly, given the importance of "Memory and the Past" to "Afterwards," Hardy also has a lot to say about the passage of time, aging, and the way our consciousness changes through time. He plays around a lot with verb tenses so that it's hard to tell when the poem takes place. Even the title refers to a particular moment in time: go check out the "What's Up with the Title?" section for more on that.
Questions About Time
- Over the course of the poem, how much time passes in the imagination of the speaker?
- How is the passage of time marked in this poem?
- Because the poem takes place in the present, as the poet imagines what will happen in the future while his neighbors recall the past, the speaker has his hands full managing verb tenses. How does he do it? Is it at all confusing? At which points?
Chew on This
The ringing of the "bell of quittance" marks the passage of time, but the wind that interrupts the sound of the bell suggests that the passage of time can somehow be disrupted, if only momentarily.
The neighbors standing on the threshold of the door (13) parallels the poet's sense that he, too, is on a threshold, about to depart through the "postern" (1) of life.