by Thomas Hardy
The poem begins and ends with the woman calling, so we're going to go ahead and argue that the idea of calling is pretty darn important in the poem. Note that the speaker is specific—the woman isn't simply "speaking" or perhaps "asking" for the speaker. The "call," unlike these others ways of speaking, connotes some urgency, desperation, or maybe even fear or need—as in "a call for help." This ghost, whether she's real or just a figment of the speaker's imagination, is an agitated ghost. She's constantly demanding something from the speaker (even if we don't know what that something is).
- Lines 1-4 : The speaker imagines that the woman is calling to him, and in her call, she explains that she's changed. In the present, she's reverted to the woman of the distant (not the recent) past. This stanza seems desperate to us, because the ghost is expressing a desire to return to an impossible time. (Or is the speaker expressing this? Hmm. Food for thought…)
- Line 5: The speaker isn't sure if he's actually hearing the woman's call. He asks her to appear. (She doesn't.)
- Lines 9-12: The speaker asks if he's actually hearing the wind, not the voice of a dead woman. He seems more sensible here.
- Lines 13-16: The poem ends with both the sounds of the wind and the sound of "the woman calling." The speaker refuses to choose between the two, to decide whether the voice is real or imagined out of desperation.