Study Guide

The Ruined Maid Stanza 2

By Thomas Hardy

Stanza 2

Lines 5-6

-"You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;

  • Like the first stanza, the second begins with the speaker addressing 'Melia.
  • She starts this stanza by telling us about 'Melia's past. 'Melia apparently used to live with this woman (we're gonna guess they're sisters, or at least BFF's).
  • 'Melia left them some time ago, and when she left she was in rags ("tatters"), didn't have any shoes or socks, and was tired of digging for taters, and… um, "spudding up docks"?
  • Hmm, does that have something to do with the docks where ships park?
  • Eh, not really. To spud up docks is actually a local slang phrase (used in rural parts of England back in the day) that means to dig up weeds with a spade.
  • As with that whole "prosperi-ty" bit earlier, we see Hardy give this speaker a more authentic voice—she is talking just like a woman from the country would actually talk.
  • Clearly these women once lived on a farm together and worked the land.
  • They were also quite poor. Even farmers and laborers wear shoes and socks, right?
  • The image of 'Melia in "tatters" contrasts with the "fair garments" (3) of the first stanza, and makes it clear how much our friend 'Melia has changed. (Hint: a lot!)
  • We've also got to point out one other thing that's been bugging us about these lines.
  • The first phrase, "you left us in tatters," could be read two ways.
  • First, you can take it the way we've explained: 'Melia left the country wearing "tatters" instead of "fair garments."
  • You can also read it as saying that 'Melia left her friends, or family, behind in tatters—as if she left and they were reduced to "tatters" as a result.
  • Hmm, that really begs the question then, doesn't it: who is ruined, Melia or her friend?
  • Are they both ruined in their own ways? 
  • Perhaps we will get some more clues as we go on…

Lines 7-8

And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!"-
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.

  • The speaker continues to chat up 'Melia about her outfit. Apparently, 'Melia has "gay" (i.e., bright) bracelets and three feathers. 
  • Wait, feathers? Where? In her hat? It could very well be in her hat.
  • She could also be wearing some kind of fancy boa with feathers in it, probably a bit like this.
  • Either way, the point is the same as before: our friend 'Melia is now one hip and fancy girl.
  • And she's so well-dressed because that's how "ruined" women dress, she tells her friend.
  • Just like the first stanza, the second stanza concludes with one line spoken by 'Melia, and it contains some version of the word "ruin."
  • We can't help noticing that there's something fishy about the way 'Melia speaks. It all seems very formulaic, or robotic.
  • There's nothing too emotional about 'Melia's responses, and they all pretty much amount to "yes, that's what we do when we're ruined" and "that's what it is to be ruined."
  • We're not sure what to make of this yet. It's just a little odd. It's like 'Melia isn't as much of a real person as her friend is—just something to keep in mind as we go on to the third stanza.

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