Thomas Hardy's poem Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave is a humorous and mildly cynical reminder that, once we are dead and buriied, life goes on. It invites comparison to E. A. Robinson's Is My Team Ploughing. There is little that calls for explanation once the reader understands that the questioning voice is that of a woman who has shuffled off her mortal coil.
In the first stanza she asks if it is her male loved one who is doing the digging with the intention of planting rue. We are reminded that the plant rue is extremely bitter and thus has lent itself to the abstract meaning of regret. Literary references to this aspect abound, Returning to Hardy, the answer to her question is negative. Her loved one has gone off to marry a wealthy woman. He justifies his action saying, "it cannot hurt her now . . ./ That I should not be true.".
The dead woman's second question asks if it is her "nearest dearest kin" doing the digging. Again the answer is no. Her kinfolk feel that planting flowers on her grave is a waste of time and energy since it will not bring back her back from death.
Question three asks if it is her enemy that is turning up the clods. No, her female enemy buried her hatred when she head the questioner's death and cares not where she is entombed.
The dead speaker gives up guessing in stanza four and asks the identity of the digger. She learns that it is her dog who hopes he has not disturbed her. The woman expresses her happiness that "one true heart was left behind" and praises her dog's faithfulness. In the concluding stanza, the dog apologizes. The animal was merely burying a bone against future hunger, having totally forgotten that this was its mistress's resting place.
The overall effect of the poem is mirth. Beware of the vanity of human wishes. Once you die you are soon forgotten by lover, by kinfolk, by enemy and even by Fido, the canine embodiment of faithful devotion.
"Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave," Thomas Hardy Critical Analysis "Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave," is a poem written by Thomas Hardy. The central theme of this poem is death, which is also seen in several different forms throughout the works of Thomas Hardy. There is a great deal of disappointment expressed in this poem. The Oxford Reader's Companion to Hardy deems it, "a satire of circumstance" (Page 378). Thus, death and the afterlife are things of tragedy in this particular work. The point that Hardy makes is that no love or hate outlasts death.
An important aspect to the poem's structure is that it is written sequentially in order to prepare the reader for an unsettling ending. Hardy takes us on a downward spiral through, as The Pattern of Hardy's Poetry puts it, a "series of steps from appearance to reality" (Hynes 53). The dead woman believes that someone she loved is there at her grave. This, however, she finds out is untrue through a devastating sequence of disappointments. The woman originally suspects that the person at her grave is her husband, but sadly it is not. In reality, her husband is off with his new love, and feels that since she is dead it, "cannot hurt her now" (p.48; l.5). Consequently, the woman guesses again, thinking this time it is her closest of kin. She is, yet again, disappointed. She finds out that they do not care to think of her anymore. This feeling of neglect is seen in the line, "What good will planting flowers produce?" (p.48; l.10). In other words, the family of the woman would rather not think of her than hurt themselves by doing so. Their reason for not going to see her is that nothing can bring her back from, "Death's gin" .At this point, Hardy has still not revealed the digger's identity. He continues to do this, according to A Critical Introduction to the Poems of Thomas Hardy, to show that, "the eager hopefulness of the dead woman is mercilessly quenched".
These first two lines of the poem present a certain mystery to the reader. Who is asking this question? Is it indeed a person in the grave, or is it a person imagining an experience that might happen after they die? This mystery helps to draw the reader into the poem, though we will soon understand that the speaker is indeed a woman who is dead and buried. Hardy will continue to make use of an anonymous voice in the poem, however, when he introduces the second character in the work.
These lines also suggest some underlying elements that can help us to better understand the situation. The reference to the “rue” being planted by the woman’s loved one seems an important detail. The word rue has two essential meanings and both can be applied to the poem. First, rue means sorrow or regret, so the woman might be indicating that her loved one is experiencing these emotions. Initially, the speaker seems to feel that her death has caused sorrow for the loved one and that she remains strong in his memory. In this sense, he would be “planting rue” by mourning her death. In the following lines, however, we learn he is not full of sorrow, so if she has this idea, it proves to be a mistake. Rue is also the name of a shrub having bitter, strongly scented leaves. This definition of rue seems to hint at the true nature of the relationship between the woman and the loved one. The bitter plant contrasts with the beautiful flowers that are often placed on graves, and this contrast becomes stronger when we remember that flowers are a traditional symbol of love and purity. In other words, the speaker doesn’t imagine the man offering a remembrance of beauty and affection, just one of bitterness.
In these lines, the speaker’s first question is answered by the “digger” of her grave, though the digger’s identity is unknown at this point in the poem. The anonymous speaker becomes an important factor in the poem, urging the reader to push on and discover who is talking to the woman. What’s made clear in this first stanza is that this voice does not belong to the loved one that the woman thought she was addressing. This is indicated by the use of the third-person “he” to refer to the man. The voice explains that the woman’s loved one—perhaps a husband or lover—has married another woman. What’s more, he has married a very wealthy mate and appears to be doing quite well …
The Tone is :- Elegy + Dialog .
There Are Two Kinds of Lines :-
1- Run on line
2- End stopped line.