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Domicilium is a poem portraying Hardy’s idealistic view on nature through his description of his childhood home and the surrounding landscape. The poem is split up into two separated by a time shift; the first section is on the current state of the cottage and the wilderness enclosing it, while the second is a reflection on the beginnings of this cottage in the past. In this IOC, I will be focusing on the second part where Hardy describes his grandmother’s recollection nature’s dominance over the cottage and its surroundings when they first settled. This poem also links to Beeney Cliff as it also illustrates Hardy’s admiration for nature, where he reflects on the role of nature on his marriage. In this extract, Hardy reflects on the perpetuity and dominance of nature both in the past and present; despite’s man’s interference, it transcends time. Hardy achieves this through the juxtaposition between nature’s permanence with change, the contrast between the fleeting character of man and the wild ubiquity of nature both in the past and present, and the harmonious coexistence between man and nature.
Firstly, Hardy explores the contrast between nature’s permanence and change, which epitomizes nature’s resilience and dominance over men and ability to transcend time. The title “domicilium” is in Latin, a traditional but obsolete language. The use of a dead language may imply that man doesn’t last forever, and may be forgotten. However, Latin is viewed as a classical language; the use of it evokes an air of romanticism, which could be a representation of Hardy’s nostalgia for the past. The beginning line “in days by gone, long gone” – emphasized by caesuras and dashes signals the time shift, slowing down the pace of the poem. This is further accentuated by the assonance of the long o sounds, which sounds drawn out. Despite the passing of this length of time, there are similarities between the past and present – nature has remained constant. Nature still encloses the area – in the present the “tall firs and beeches” act as protections against outsiders – the ominous image, coupled with the word “tall” imply this, while in the past the ferns obscure the cottage from passerbys, accentuating the idea that nature is everlasting and resilient to time. Yet, Hardy claims “change has marked the face of all things.” This statement is laden with irony – it is implied that humans are proud and wish to delude themselves that they have power; in reality, the similarities in past/present refute that they don’t. Furthermore, Hardy illustrates that within this time, generations of his family have passed, emphasizing the transient nature of men. The use of ‘my father’s mother’ rather than ‘my grandmother’ emphasizes the generations that have passed before Hardy, which contrasts the perpetuity of nature.
Hardy also highlights nature’s prevalence and power over time through the descriptions of nature as a ubiquitous, unrestricted force both in the past and in the present. The structure of Domicilium, unlike that of Hardy’s other poems, is in free verse. This reflects the pervasive, untamed quality of nature. It can also be deduced that this lack of structure, displayed by the lack of a rhyme scheme reflects his stream of conciousness. Because the poem illustrates a vivid image of the surrounding nature, rather than describing the cottage itself, it is implied that he views nature to be omnipresent. reflecting his idealistic view on nature’s freedom and power. This is highlighted by the use of enjambment and caesura throughout the extract; aside from evoking nostalgia, they also exemplify the unrestricted character of nature. Furthermore, the repetition of “wild” in first stanza – wild honeysucks and “wild” at the last line of poem emphasizes this aspect of nature both in the past and present – nature has been untameable both times. “Wild” connotes freedom and lack of restraint, which reflects the nature around the cottage, further emphasizing the inability of man and time to control nature. The words ‘overgrown’, ‘swarmed’ imply that nature is overwhelming, highlighting the ubiquity. the trio of ‘bramble bushes, furze and thorn’ further displays this — all three are connoted as unruly plants. this is delivered blow after blow, emphasizing the pervasiveness and power of nature Lastly, the abrupt end “here” to the poem is jarring, enhancing the idea of nature’s perpetuity and cannot be halted by man’s interference or time.
Nature’s perpetuity is also illustrated through man’s amiable coexistence with nature both in the present and in the past, accentuated by man’s seclusion and the resulting dependence on nature to remedy this. Rather than humans altering nature to suit their needs, they are inexplicably intertwined with nature and so gradually adapt to nature’s perpetuity. The first line on the last verse ‘house stood quite alone’ – emphasizes this seclusion; alone connotes solitude and isolation. However, the succeeding lines depicting the rather idealistic relationship between nature and man render this line ironic. In ‘snakes and efts swarmed’, the use of alliteration and sibilance, coupled with the sentimental tone, evokes a sense of tranquility sibilance is soft, implying that these animals – snakes and lizards were welcomed. This serenity is further developed by the use of the word ‘summer’, which evokes atmospheres of warmth and idyll. This sharply contrasts the reaction of most people; most would cower in fear. The juxtaposition of this unusual reaction with terror-inducing imagery emphasizes the unusual coexistence present between man and nature and imply that Hardy and his family have adapted to nature. The succeeding use of animal imagery have the same effect; ‘bedroom’ hints at a sense of intimacy and security, suggesting that the invasion of nature was welcomed, and ‘only friends’ emphasizes man’s seclusion and soley relied on nature for social interactions.
In conclusion, Hardy exemplifies nature’s resilience and potency as it transcends through man’s intervention and time through the contrast between nature’s permanency and man’s transience, omnipresence of nature both in the past and present and the cohesion between man and nature as the poem shifts from present to past. Nature hasn’t changed within the passing of time; though it had been somewhat controlled in the first two stanzas, its dominance and perpetuity is still palpable. Hardy’s idealism of nature provokes today’s readers to reflect on the relationship between man and the environment, an issue pertinent in today’s world where we wreak havoc upon nature, thus endangering it, sharply contrasting Hardy’s romanticism of a utopia where man and nature live in harmony.
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