Abstract

In Chapter 6 of The Return of the Native Thomas Hardy provides the following description of the isolated figure of Eustacia Vye as she stands motionless upon Egdon Heath:

It might reasonably have been supposed that she was listening to the wind, which rose somewhat as the night advanced, and laid hold of the attention. … Gusts in innumerable series followed each other from the north-west, and when each one of them raced past the sound of its progress resolved into three. Treble, tenor, and bass notes were to be found therein. The general ricochet of the whole over pits and prominences had the gravest pitch of the chime. Next there could be heard the baritone buzz of a holly tree. Below these in force, above them in pitch, a dwindled voice strove hard at a husky tune, which was the peculiar local sound alluded to …

‘The spirit moved them.’ A meaning of the phrase forced itself upon the attention; and an emotional listener’s fetichistic mood might have ended in one of more advanced quality. It was not, after all, that the left-hand expanse of old blooms spoke, or the right-hand, or those of the slope in front; but it was the single person of something else speaking through each at once.

Suddenly, on the barrow, there mingled with all this wild rhetoric of the night a sound which modulated so naturally into the rest that its beginning and ending were hardly to be distinguished. The bluffs, and the bushes, and the heather-bells had broken silence; at last, so did the woman; and her articulation was but as another phrase of the same discourse of theirs. Thrown out on the winds it became twined in with them, and with them it flew away.1

Keywords

Amid Beach Heroine Pebble Metaphor 

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Notes

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© Mark Asquith 2005

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  • Mark Asquith

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