In both poems : ‘Beeny Cliff’ (Thomas Hardy) and ‘On Wenlock Edge’ (A.E.Housman) , the two poets associate the past with the present in different ways. Hardy presents the past by remembering his own experiences. Throughout the poem, the love and relationship with his previous wife is described almost as an unpleasant reminiscence. As if telling a story, he reveals the misery of the unrequited love and the regrets that he has for the past.
Whereas in ‘On Wenlock Edge’, Housman is standing alone on a hillside, gazing at a landscape. He relates himself to an imagined historical figure, by mentioning things in common in both characters; also contributing his emotions and views that he has at that particular place. I think that the poets’ expressions are rather personal in both poems. On the whole, the two poems are retrospective, whether it was about their own history, or about the ancient, the one not experienced.
Although presented in various ways, it seems that there is a sense of melancholy in both poems. Hardy does this by presenting his language in a depressing tone, though still giving away hints of his affection towards his former wife; whom he had written the poem for. However, Housman gives us a transient feeling; also creating the sense of loneliness throughout the whole poem. He describes the view he has from the hillside, and analyses human beings against the nature around him; using elements such as the wind and the trees of different kinds.
‘Beeny Cliff’ is a short, simple-structured poem. The five stanzas, each three lines, are numbered with Roman numerals, as if to place them in order. They also act as time indicators to show that the time is moving forward; as out of five, the first three sections are written in the past tense, the other two in the present tense. Similar to the shape, the content of the poem divides into five sections as well. The poem starts with a feeling of deep, mutual love. The romantic theme carries on, though giving some awkward impressions using a difficult choice of vocabulary. Unfortunately, the poem concludes with the death of his wife, and a sense of unhappiness stands out by the constant use of negative language. I think Hardy intentionally does this to separate the individual events in each stanza. Overall, the poem is in an eye-catching shape, and seems as significant as the content presumably is to the poet.
Similarly, ‘On Wenlock Edge’ is a very short poem with five stanzas, each four lines. I think that its shape is very appropriate for a poem about the countryside, as it has a simple shape, divided into neat sections. As with the ‘Beeny Cliff’, ‘On Wenlock Edge’ is also written in the past tense in the first four stanzas, and the last in the present tense. I think Housman does this to start telling of his memory in the past, and then brings it back to the present. Furthermore, the lines are short and only state his individual thoughts without any explanation. I think that Housman does this in order to make the reader focus more on the content as, I think, a lot of understanding is needed; although the poem looks quite straightforward.
The rhyme scheme of ‘On Wenlock Edge’ is also very simple, the ‘ABAB’ form. Apart from a pair of eye-rhyme, all of the rhymes are very noticeable. The eye-rhyme, ‘hanger’ and ‘anger’ looks as if they would rhyme, but does not when spoken aloud. Nevertheless, I think Housman could have done this to emphasise his anger, as the two words would be the same if the ‘h’ was taken off ‘hanger’.
In this stanza, Housman’s feelings stand out, as he expresses his rage on his choice of language as well. In the same stanza, the repetition of the harsh ‘th’ sounds in words such as ‘through’, ‘then’, and ‘threshed’; this would be the evidence of the emphasis of his emotion. Likewise, ‘Beeny Cliff’ has an even simpler rhyme scheme. It has an ‘AAA’ rhyme scheme, the three lines of each stanza rhyming. For example, the first three lines rhyme with an ‘ee’ sound, and the next stanza rhymes with an ‘ay’ sound, and so on. This is quite an unusual pattern; however Hardy uses them successfully and makes the rhymes very strong and obvious. I think this rhyme scheme creates a spell-like sense, which would be appropriate for a love poem.
In the first line of ‘Beeny Cliff’, Hardy starts the poem with the word ‘O’. The letter o, as onomatopoeia, is usually attached with an ‘h’; however in this case, it indicates that Hardy sighs. At this point, I think Hardy shows this to underline his unhappiness. During the rest of the first stanza, there are several alliterations used, such as ‘loyally loved’, the ‘lo’ repeated. Hardy does this to emphasise the love between the couple in the beginning; as he carries on his telling of the feelings that he had, when he was deeply in love.
Moreover, not only does he carry on using a lot of alliterations, but he also uses some assonance. For example, there is the triplet, ‘riding’ ‘high’ ‘bright’ in line 2 of the poem. The ‘I’ sound, and the word ‘high’ in the middle creates the sense of height. Hardy intentionally does this to explain his feelings of love. When, he and his wife were in love, Hardy tells us that they felt as though they were high up, above the sky. He mentions ‘nether sky’, as if there was another, lower sky below them.
Equally, ‘On Wenlock Edge’, uses a lot of stylistic devices. One of the obvious ones would be the alliteration, such as ‘forest fleece’ in line two. I think that Housman places alliteration there in order to emphasise the abundance of trees in the forest. Consonances used in this poem are not as obvious; however they are repeated a few times. The phrase ‘plies the saplings double’ has a little significance, as it shows the effects of the ‘gale’, the main element of the poem. I think the sound ‘ply’ in both words gives quite a strong impact and helps to visualise the young trees being bent by the winds.
Personification is used quite often in both of the poems. In ‘On Wenlock Edge’, Housman shows one in the first stanza. ‘the Wrekin heaves’. The ‘Wrekin’, a hill or a mountain, is described as a moving object. However, this is only used to describe blustery scenery; as the wood, covering the mountain would look as if the mountain is moving. In ‘Beeny Cliff’, there is an obvious example, ‘cloud..cloaked’. As well as alliteration, personification is used. Hardy uses the phrase the cloud cloaking something in order to give a feeling of uncertainty, in the couple’s relationship, associating the cloudy weather. I think that both poets use personification in diverse and suitable way.