#49 “Nobody Comes” (Thomas Hardy)

Thomas Hardy wrote “Nobody Comes” in 1924, when he was 84 years old. He had had several careers. He was trained as an architect, and worked at that profession till he was in his thirties. For the next quarter-century, he was one of the greatest and most distinctive of British Victorian novelists. If you think of the world of long British novels from the 19th century, you often think of settings dominated by Thomas Hardy: hardscrabble farmers and shepherds, arcane half-forgotten trades, mysterious decayed lineages, blasted heaths, villages where a veneer of society covers unspeakable evils. Hardy’s novels won great popularity but also drew great criticism for immorality – criticism that scarcely makes sense 120 years later.

Hardy’s novels (including Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure) drew so much criticism that he abandoned novel-writing for fiction in other forms (including epic verse) and for lyric poetry. In the first three decades of the 20th century, Hardy wrote some of the great lyric poems in English. At a time when modernist writers like Marianne Moore and T.S. Eliot were reshaping the forms and concerns of English-language poetry, Hardy kept plugging away at the themes that had made him a great Victorian writer. It’s almost as if, long after the deaths of Hendrix and Joplin and Morrison and Lennon and Elvis and Michael Jackson, somebody like Bob Dylan were still writing and playing music in the year 2009. My God, perhaps he is 🙂

And so, “Nobody Comes,” a tremendous, tiny lyric poem. Two elements of technology stand in close contrast to the emptiness of the organic world. The telegraph wire in the first stanza should be an image of progress, of globalization, of a new information economy. Instead it’s a “spectral lyre,” a haunted instrument that suggests nothing except a kind of eerie image of dissociation. (The telegraph, an invention of Hardy’s youth,

In the second stanza, the car (not a common sight on English roads till Hardy was already a senior citizen) comes up, but instead of bringing the speaker into closer contact with the rest of his community, it merely leaves “a blacker air”: making the setting even lonelier by contrast to the brief impersonal light it’s shone on the surroundings.

“Nobody Comes” is a tiny distillation of loneliness. It’s simple. Great poetry emphatically does not have to be complicated.


12 responses to “#49 “Nobody Comes” (Thomas Hardy)

  1. In the poem “Nobody Comes” Hardy uses great detial to things around the speakers home, as if the speaker doesn’t get out much and is accustome to his surroundings. In the last few lines he mentions “And mute by the gate I stand again alone, and nobody pulls up there”. This give’s me the impression that the speaker is a lonely person, because the speaker is standing by the gate alone again. First off, who stands by their gate at the wee hours of the night? It seems as if he has done this plenty of time. Also the speaker mentions when he see’s the lights from a car he know’s it has nothing to do with him, so it can’t but leave me to wonder why is this person so depressed about not having company or visitors, and why he simply waits by his gate. By Hardy mentioning the telegraph wire as well as the great detail about the woods, I assume that the speaker lives out in the country a good distance away from civilazion and people. Since the person is very lonely and probably single it seem he/she is left waiting everyday just for anybody to stop by. This is a very sad and poem, just the way I like them.

  2. This poem has touched me very deeply. It reminds me of my grandmother. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was very lonely. Her son and daughter lived close by, but they each had busy lives so they didn’t see her as much as my grandmother would have liked. My grandmother would sit by the front door and watch the cars as they drove by and as the neighbors went in and out of their homes. It was “A car that comes up, with lamps full-glare, That flash upon a tree: It has nothing to do with me.” She would get so excited when we would go visit. There were a couple of women, though, who did go visit her and that made her happy! She loved having company. She would rush into the kitchen to prepare food to give them. While she was in the kitchen though, these women would go through her purse and steal money from her or they would take things from her house. I remember once being there the day those women were there and I saw one of them take money from my grandmother’s purse. I told my grandmother what I had seen and she said she knew but that it didn’t matter to her. She said that they must have really needed the money and that it was ok. She was just happy that they had gone to visit and talk. Later on, when my grandmother passed away, the doctors said it was because of heart trouble. I have always said that she died of a broken heart….of sadness and loneliness. I visited her as much as I could but I don’t think it was ever really the same without my grandfather. Now, her daughter, my mother, is in the hospital. She is allowed to have visitors only at certain times. My brothers are not here to see her. This situation and this poem reminds me of my grandmother and her loneliness and I will definitely be there to see my mother. Nobody Comes, is indeed, a sad poem, yet it has reminded me of how much we must spend time with those we love and treasure our time together. We must appreciate what we have. People who are in hospitals and especially in nursing homes, get forgotten. They wait for someone to come but sometimes they wait and “mute by the gate I stand again alone, And nobody pulls up there.”

  3. This poem makes me think a lot about all of the elderly people that are left unattended and lonely the last years of their life. The poem gives us an inside of what goes through their mind and the saddness that they feel. I can vividly imagine a car coming and someone waiting anxiously for it to stop in fron of their house and when it starts getting closer their heart gets all happy and all of a sudden, the car passes their house. This poem does not only relate to the elderly but it also relates to other people who live alone with nobody to look out for them, this poem shows how they feel and how loneliness can affect someones life.

  4. This poem reminded me of my grandmother as well. I have two living grandmothers, and there is a pretty large age gap between them. One is in her early 80s, and the other is just over 60. My grandmother in her 80s has almost too much contact with her children and other family members because they are worried she might get lonely (my grandfather died several decades ago and they have treated her with kid-gloves ever since). The over-involvement drives her crazy. On several occasions she has told me that she would prefer to be alone, at least for a little bit. The family is actually afraid to let her be by herself. But she’s not the grandmother I was reminded of. I thought of my other grandmother, who is afraid to be alone. The idea that she might end up like the speaker in this poem literally keeps her awake at night. but she doesn’t understand that the tings she tries to do in order to avoid this fate actually push people away and make this senario more likely in the end. As much as it pains me to say, I know I won’t be visiting her when she is finally alone. As it is, I don’t see her much now. It took a lot for me to mail her an invitation to my wedding, and I’m silently praying that she just decides not to come. When we read this poem in class, all I could picture was my grandmother in 20 years or so. As afraid as she has been of this being her fate, she has all but guaranteed it for herself. In trying to avoid it, this is the future she likely created.

  5. firewaterboi321

    Thomas Hardy wrote this piece around the time the full effects of the Industrial Revolution were being felt both in England and abroad. It seems he is conveying a sense of feeling left behind or being forgotten. There’s a very strong sense of sadness throughout this poem, even though it’s not very long (two stanzas to be exact). He was born around the middle of the 19th century, at time when work was centered on the farms and villages. More than likely his sense of isolation comes from the new technologies sprouting around him, like the telegraph wires and the automobiles of the 1920’s. It’s very difficult for the elderly today to keep up with the technological advances, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the elderly in Hardy’s time were having the same difficulties. Change is difficult for anyone who is unable to keep up with it. Hardy’s case seems to reflect that sentiment, in his description of the car that “…whangs along in a world of its own, leaving a blacker air…” It’s almost as if the car is completely ignoring his existence and leaving its mark on his world without regard to his feelings or presence.

  6. In Thomas Hardy’s poem,”Nobody Comes,” the word choices labour, fainting, succumb, darkening, spectral, blacker, and mute seem to suggest that not only has he found himself on Lonely Avenue, but that loneliness is also beginning to make his mind descend into insanity. When he said, “Tree-leaves labour up and down, and through them the fainting light succumbs to the crawl of night,” I felt that his loneliness had become unbearable and that his life had become a laborious circle of nothingness. This poem touched my soul deeply because I have always pondered the question whether longevity is a blessing or a curse? In the age of Botox injections and desperate, costly attempts to find Ponce de Leon’s elusive fountain of youth, I wonder what difference does it make if one lives to be a 100 and all the things that made one’s life meaningful and complete such as family and good friends are gone, and all avenues of escape are blocked by impaired mental and physical faculties. When Thomas Hardy said, “And mute by the gate I stand again alone, and nobody pulls up there,” the word mute caused me to hear a deafening silence. I could hear what he was not saying more than what he was saying. I could hear the tormenting voices of the demons shoulda, woulda, coulda, and if. I could see the memories that kept repeating in his mind and holding him a prisoner to his own thoughts. I could feel the passions that once burned and were now extinguished by old age. I could feel the fear of the unknown as he pondered the existence of God. I could sense the presence of death as a friend instead of foe. Mute is a powerful and profound word because it seems to suggest desire unfulfilled and speech denied.

  7. This poem reminds me of someone who has lost their husband or wife to death. While their spouse was living they did everything for each other and depended on each other for support and comfort. They never had to worry about being alone. Then when their spouse passes away they are sad and are left alone. Many elderly people experience this. It reminds me of when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother had to learn how to live life without him. She would sit out on her front porch and watch the cars pass and people walk by. A lady mentioned in class that this is what Michael Jackson was going through before he passed. I think he felt alone because no one understood how he felt. I think many people can relate to a time in their life when they felt alone and had no one to turn to.

  8. In Thomas Hardy’s poem,”Nobody Comes,” to me it seems it is just a sad old person who is near the end of their life realizing how lonely and forgotten how they have become. With the new technology as in the poem shed light on what can be invented has shut out the light of what has past. “Tree-leaves labour up and down, and through them the fainting light succumbs to the crawl of night,” make it seems like no matter what we do in life it reverts to the same as before and that it will inevitable end with death. This line gives no happy outlook on life whatsoever. This poem touched me because it is a jab at life itself. It poses the questions of how can we be so heartless and leave those who paved the way for us behind, and is it really a blessing to live a long life? The poem points out that people are entirely materialist when it comes to new and exciting things that “whang along in a world of its own, leaving a blacker air” that we do not pay attention to the things we had before. Also the sentence is saying that the only marks that can be apparent on society is that of something new, and it does not leave a good mark. Society has become too caught up in the now that the past seems to mean absolutely nothing. It is just depressing.

  9. darkness, a foreboding tone, run deep in this poem. Both the “organic nature” and the “elements of technology” seem to both be characterized with an ominous tone “and through them (tree leaves) the fainting light succumbs to the crawl of night” and “the telegraph wire… intones to travelers like a spectral lyre”. The idea of the night crawling brings the image of the “day is upon us” a sort of premonition of the future. the next stanza begins strongly with an image of a car making its place known and suddenly flashes upon the tree, as if to be a bolt of lightning accompanied even with the crash of thunder stated by the strange sounding word “whang”. What premonition could Thomas Hardy be envisioning? specifically, that is not known, yet it is known that it is one where people no longer come up to your house, instead they pass by in the form of some contraption, or their voices coded in the form of some electric energy. Are we not at that point now? Strangely the date is placed at the end of the poem accompanied by nothing else.

  10. “Nobody Comes” by Thomas Hardy is a short poem that packs a big, deep punch! The Idea that we are all alone is very simple, yet it truly speaks volumes about the time spent on this planet. One of the basic rules of the universe would be evolution, and how all energy progresses through its cycles. From stars to planets, everything is always progressing. The same can be said for our species. Progress is inevitable and natural, but can be unkind. Memory is seemingly short and many of the older things are forgotten, including the elderly. It is tough for me to put myself in the shoes of being a lonely old man, but the thought of it is awful. My grandparents have lived with my family for over a decade, culturally this is a norm for me. For some reason, many people never understand the idea of taking care of the elders. But without them where would we be?

  11. i read this poem and it frightens me. i dont want to end up old and alone. my grandmother died 6 months agoat age 76 and left my grandfather without his lifelong partner, albeit in lubbock texas, where they spent there whole lives. my grandfather has plenty of family friends who still live there, but lost the one closest to him. thinking about his situation and puting myself in his shoes is a hard thing to do. i cant even begin to immagine how difficult it must be to loose someone whom you’ve built a life around. i get the same feeling when i read “nobody comes”. i immagine the character sitting on his front porch doing nothing but waiting for someone to talk to, and feeling deeply alone and abandoned. i dont want to die but i deffinately dont want to live without anybody to share life experences with even more.

  12. The poem “Nobody Comes” by thomas hardy. this poem was written by hardy at the age of 84 thus reflecting on the sadness and loneliness of any man that age, this poem was written to express his thoughts about is wife florence dugdale who was his junior by almost 30 years… the poem was written at the time when mrs dugdale was admitted into hospital and hardys brother henry hardy was driving dugdale from london(place she was admitted) to donschester(i dont know if the spelling is correct) thus hardy suspects a love affair between the two in the last stanza through this reflecting self pity and sorrow

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