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Featured Poem: The Fallow Deer At The Lonely House by Thomas Hardy

Written by Rachael Norris, 7th December 2020

This week's Featured Poem, The Fallow Deer At The Lonely House by Thomas Hardy, is brought to us by The Reader's Learning and Quality Leader, Katie Clark. To see what else we have coming up this month on the theme of 'Winter Warmth', our December readings calendar can be downloaded here. 

I love the first line of this poem, it draws me in straight away, wondering who this ‘one’ could be, and why they are on the outside? I also find myself wondering what it is about the inside that makes them want to peer ‘through the curtain-chink’. It makes me wonder whether they wish they could be on the inside themselves, joining in with the scene there, which sounds warm and cosy ‘By the fender brink’, compared with the ‘sheet of glistening white’ which makes me think of cold hard ice.

The ‘curtain chink’ also allows this observer to remain unseen themselves. ‘We do not discern those eyes’…The word ‘Discern’ is interesting because it isn’t just about seeing. It feels deeper than that, more like understanding. I wonder if there is a bigger distance here between the inside and outside than just the walls that separate them? That line is repeated again isn’t it, this lack of discernment feels important. And yet, there is a warmth about these eyes which seems in stark contrast to the ‘sheet of glistening white’ around them. The ‘lamps of rosy dyes’ and ‘aglow’ make me picture an old fashioned lamppost spreading an almost magical glow on this scene. And suddenly the outside seems more appealing, and I catch myself wondering if those on the inside are the ones missing out. The creature outside looks in and sees them, but they don’t see him as he wanders. The ‘fourfooted tiptoe’ is interesting, what sort of image does that conjure up for us? And where, I wonder, is this creature tiptoeing to? Will he return, or has he seen enough?

 

The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House

One without looks in to-night

Through the curtain-chink

From the sheet of glistening white;

One without looks in to-night

As we sit and think

By the fender-brink.

 

We do not discern those eyes

Watching in the snow;

Lit by lamps of rosy dyes

We do not discern those eyes

Wandering, aglow

Fourfooted, tiptoe.

Thomas Hardy

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