Study Guide

The Ruined Maid Stanza 5

By Thomas Hardy

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Stanza 5

Lines 17-19

-"You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!"-

  • The fourth stanza begins with the speaker again talking all about the difference between 'Melia's former and current life.
  • Back on the farm, she ('Melia) would complain that her home-life was a "hag-ridden dream." 
  • A "hag" is just a witch, or an old crone—something like this.
  • To say that life is a "hag-ridden dream" is to say that, well, it is like a dream full of witches—scary, no good, unpleasant.
  • While this is one way to read this puzzling little phrase, there is a little more to explore. A long time ago, the phrase "hag-ridden" was used to describe a certain type of sleep disorder called sleep paralysis.
  • This is a condition where the sleeper feels like they're paralyzed, possessed, and being weighed down by something. (You can read a brief blurb about the condition here.)
  • So, what's the bottom line? 'Melia did not feel very good about her home-life.
  • She'd sigh, and sigh loudly ("sock"), and get all upset.
  • But now, she seems to have forgotten all about how unhappy she used to be.
  • She seems to know nothing about "megrims" (another dialect word, meaning "migraines" or even just "low spirits") or sadness.
  • So, is moving up to town and becoming a "ruined maid" the solution to all of life's "megrims"? 
  • Well, maybe it's not quite that, but 'Melia can at least claim that she is a happier person now and that her life is a little better than it used to be, even though she's "ruined."
  • Even though 'Melia has chosen a less-than-conventional path, at least she's no longer suffering back home on the farm.
  • Right?

Line 20

"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.

  • And that's pretty much exactly what she says to her friend, our speaker.
  • People are pretty "lively" when they're ruined. They're happier, in better spirits, less depressed.
  • The irony here of course is that Melia seems anything but "lively."
  • She's almost like a robot, don't you think, with all those pre-programmed, generic responses?
  • We know we've said it before, but the idea bears repeating here.

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