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The Voice

The Voice


by Thomas Hardy

Stanza 3 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 9-12

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near? 

  • Now even more doubt creeps in. The speaker asks if it's possible that he's not hearing the voice of the woman. He thinks that maybe he's only hearing the voice of the wind.
  • But interestingly, he's still addressing her (check out that "you" at the beginning of line 11). He's gonna talk to the dead woman whether she's real or imaginary. 
  • And the fact of her imaginariness echoes one of the most startling things about this stanza: the extensive triple rhymes of the words "listlessness" and "wistlessness." (We're pretty sure that Hardy made up this second word). 
  • Let's face it: these lines, like the fact that the speaker is talking to a dead woman, are ridiculous. And that's the point. 
  • So, we've got a "listless" (or lethargic) wind, traveling across a sad British landscape (for "mead," think meadow), and a dead woman who has "dissolved" to "wan wistlessness" (or something like pale melancholy), who will never be heard from again. Even the alliteration in this line is sad—those repeated W sounds just break our Shmoopy hearts just a little bit. 
  • It seems that the ghost has been replaced by the most pathetic breeze imaginable. There is no woman calling, just the lame wind. Thanks for the good cheer there, Hardy.
  • And to top it all off: the meter starts to break down in line 12. While most even-numbered lines have 10 syllables, line 12 has just 8 syllables. It's as if the speaker stops short, and can't be bothered to keep to the meter anymore. (Check out "Form and Meter" for more deets on this.) He's just so sad.

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