In Tenebris

In Tenebris

By Thomas Hardy

“Percussus sum sicut foenum, et aruit cor meum.” —Ps. ci.

Wintertime nighs;
But my bereavement-pain
It cannot bring again:
Twice no one dies.

Flower-petals flee;
But, since it once hath been,
No more that severing scene
Can harrow me.

Birds faint in dread:
I shall not lose old strength
In the lone frost’s black length:
Strength long since fled!

Leaves freeze to dun;
But friends can not turn cold
This season as of old
For him with none.

Tempests may scath;
But love can not make smart
Again this year his heart
Who no heart hath.

Black is night’s cope;
But death will not appal
One who, past doubtings all,
Waits in unhope.

Summary of In Tenebris

  • Popularity of “In Tenebris”: Beautifully titled “In Tenebris” in Latin, the poem first appeared in 1895 and was published the next year. Later, it has undergone publication in several curriculum collections and anthologies as the representative poem of Thomas Hardy, an English household name in poetry and novel writing. The event mentioned in the poem points to Hardy’s personal state of affairs. He was undergoing depression due to fraught conjugal life and facing market lash due to the rejection of his novel, Judge the Obscure. The popularity and beauty of the poem, however, lie in the fact that it presents the poet’s resignation, despondency, and resentment simultaneously.
  • “In Tenebris” As a Representative of Abstract Depression: True to its title, the poet presents himself as the speaker of the poem to demonstrate how he is in the darkness. He states this after citing the epigram from the Vulgate of Psalms, which means that it cannot bring twice and that no one dies twice. The speaker dilates upon his personal grief, which only the background reading of the poem discloses. Hardy is in deep depression when he says that although the winter is playing havoc with the current beauty, it cannot bring it twice as he has already faced the worst. His pain is still the same, and it would stay the same. It could make flowers sans petals or birds faint with dread, or leaves freeze to “dun”, but it is the same for the people who have undergone such changes. Therefore, such tempests or black nights come and go and do not impact the ones already impacted. It would continue because the people living under no hope would have to live their lives as it is.
  • Major Themes in “In Tenebris”: Deep depression, resignation, and the un-hopefulness are major themes of this poem. The very title of the poem given in Latin is suggestive of this deep depression, while resignation is apparent from the Latin psalm, which shows that nothing could happen twice, and if a person has undergone one crisis, he is not terrified of the other. The poem then comments on the environment prevalent after the autumn, which points to the same depression, and yet the resignation shown through the last line of every stanza shows that the poet is resigned to his fate.
    He knows that death does not come twice or nothing can be dreadful once it comes upon a person, or nobody can mourn things forever. This resignation over the turning of events continues until the poet comes to the point, saying that people who have no heart do not feel impacted, or their heart does not feel the impact of things. This is the situation of having no hope, which is a strong type of pessimism.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in In Tenebris

Thomas Hardy’s skill in poetry writing and using literary devices is matchless. He used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of this poem. Some of the major literary devices used in it are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It means using references of cultural, historical, and literary importance to stress a point. The poem shows the allusions, such as its title or the epigraph from the Vulgate of Psalms.
  2. Alliteration: This device shows the use of initial consonant sounds in consecutive words, such as the sound of /h/ in “his heart” or /s/ in “severing scene.”
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “But love can not make smart” and the sound of /o/ in “One who, past doubtings all.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ and /s/ in “No more that severing scene” and the sound of /t/ and /s/ in “Tempests may scath.”
  5. Enjambment: It means to roll over a verse into the next line without a pause. This poem shows the use an enjambment, such as;

Birds faint in dread:
I shall not lose old strength
In the lone frost’s black length:
Strength long since fled!

  1. Epigraph: It means to use quotes in the beginning of the work about the main theme. This could be from some popular or ancient, or theological text. The poem shows a quote, “Percussus sum sicut foenum, et aruit cor meum” used at the beginning of the poem.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Thomas Hardy used imagery in this poem, such as “Tempests may scath”, “Strength long since fled” and “Again this year, his heart.”
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of death as a person who becomes startled or of strength that flies away.
  4. Personification: It means to attribute human emotions to inanimate objects. The poet has used the personification of strength that has emotions and can run away.
  5. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as winter, pain, flower, scene, birds, and dread to show the darkness prevalent in the mind of the poet.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in In Tenebris

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal, poetic, and inscrutable diction.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to use verses having matching end words. Thomas Hardy shows the use of end rhyme such as nighs/dies and pain/again.
  3. Quatrain: It is a Persian stanza having four verses. The poem shows the use of a quatrain in all stanzas.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas, with each comprising four verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a bitter, frustrated, depressed, and tragic tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about the deathly situation prevalent at night.

Black is night’s cope;
But death will not appal
One who, past doubtings all,
Waits in unhope.