A Thunderstorm In Town

Thomas Hardy

‘A Thunderstorm In Town’ by Thomas Hardy presents two contrasting scenes: the dry interior of a carriage and the havoc of a thunderstorm outside. But the powerful imagery and symbolism mainly illustrate a memory of lovelorn regret by the speaker.

Cite

Thomas Hardy

Nationality: English

Thomas Hardy is remembered today for novels such as 'Jude the Obscure' and 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles.' 

But, there is a wealth of content to explore in his masterful poetry.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Bittersweet memories remain lodged in our minds

Speaker: A man recalling a memory

Emotions Evoked: Fear, Love for Her, Regret

Poetic Form: Quintain

Time Period: 20th Century

This is a beautiful, short poem that uses descriptive imagery to reimagine a moment of intimacy between two people caught in a storm.

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‘A Thunderstorm In Town’ is a short poem by Thomas Hardy that recalls the wistful memory in which two people take shelter from a storm. Using detailed imagery, the poem recreates the sensory experiences of both the storm and the dry confines of the carriage the speaker sits in with their companion.

The poem also emphasizes the irony found in the fact that once the storm finally passes and the woman exits, all the speaker can think about is how they wish they’d taken advantage of the intimacy created by the moment.

A Thunderstorm In Town
Thomas Hardy

She wore a 'terra-cotta' dress,And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,Within the hansom's dry recess,Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionlessWe sat on, snug and warm.

Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,And the glass that had screened our forms beforeFlew up, and out she sprang to her door:I should have kissed her if the rainHad lasted a minute more.


Summary

'A Thunderstorm In Town' by Thomas Hardy is a short poem that reminisces in the bittersweet experience of being trapped with someone to escape a passing storm. 

‘A Thunderstorm In Town’ unfolds like a memory relayed by the speaker. In it, they describe taking shelter inside a hansom (a type of small horse-drawn carriage) with a female companion they have some blossoming affection for. It’s not clear whether these two people are together, if the speaker has longstanding feelings for them, or if their connection is just brought on by the intimacy of the moments described in the poem.

Either way, the people find themselves stuck inside the “snug and warm” (5) carriage until the storm has passed over them. When it does, the speaker is instantly saddened because the woman leaves, further underscoring the fact that it was just the thunderstorm that kept them together. The speaker then admits that had the thunderstorm continued just “a minute more” (10), they would have plucked up the courage to kiss her.

Structure and Form

‘A Thunderstorm In Town’ is composed of two quintains. The poem’s rhyme scheme is ABAAB CDDCD. The first stanza contains only end-stopped lines, while the second stanza contains examples of both end-stop and enjambment.

Literary Devices

In ‘A Thunderstorm In Town, Hardy mainly relies on imagery to develop the scenery of the poem’s subjects. There is the “‘terra-cotta’ dress” worn by the woman, which stands out in vibrant contrast to the colorless gloom of the storm. There’s the kinetic imagery of the “pelting storm” itself, which is juxtaposed alongside the visual imagery of the “motionless” horse and the two companions seated “snug and warm” within.

Hardy also describes the interior of the carriage with tactile imagery as a “dry recess.” More imagery of movement occurs in the second stanza when the rain stops and the woman abruptly leaves — “out she sprang.”

There’s also potential in the symbolism of the thunderstorm itself. Such a tempest is usually analogized as representative of strife, but Hardy ironically perceives it instead as creating an opportunity for intimacy. As a result, the storm could symbolize the chaotic circumstances of life that can force us to take shelter with others. Yet it’s only after the fact that we realize the significance of the moment.

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

She wore a ‘terra-cotta’ dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom’s dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.

In the first stanza of ‘A Thunderstorm In Town, the speaker describes the experience of being caught in the downpour released by a passing thunderstorm. But it’s also telling that the opening line of the poem doesn’t describe the storm but rather the speaker’s companion — a woman wearing a “terra-cotta” dress. She becomes more of a fixation in stanza two, but here Hardy instead focuses on two carefully juxtaposed images that define this memory: the “pelting storm” (2) and the “hansom’s dry recess”(3).

These pieces of scenery create a mood of violent chaos outside that contrasts with a serenity enjoyed by the carriage’s two occupants. The speaker also informs us that the horse drawing their hansom cab has stopped and is “yea, motionless”(4) — further emphasizing their inertness against the kineticism of the rain and wind. The stanza’s final line builds on the imagery of the description of the inside of the hansom in line three, where the two companions sit “snug and warm” (5), implying a burgeoning intimacy between the speaker and their female companion.

Stanza Two

Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.

The second stanza of ‘A Thunderstorm In Town’ opens with a shift in atmosphere and mood. “Then the downpour ceased,” the speaker declares, before confessing that the departing storm has left them with a “sharp sad pain”(6). At first glance, the speaker’s feelings might appear paradoxical — but the reason for their pang of despair reveals itself as the cocooning intimacy of their hansom evaporates (quite literally) around them.

The kinetic imagery of the storm is also replaced by the rapid movements of the speaker’s female companion, who wastes little time in leaving the hansom as soon as the rain has stopped. Instantaneously, the “glass that had screened [their] forms” (7) is thrown up, and she goes to her door (possibly the front door of her home), leaving the speaker alone in the carriage to contemplate a stab of regret. “I should have kissed her if the rain / Had lasted a minute more” (9-10), they admit in lament, confirming the insinuated intimacy from stanza one, though we only see one side express it.

The poem’s ending also reveals the inherent irony to be found in this reminiscence, as it’s their desire to remain out of the thunderstorm that essentially traps them together. Yet when it ends (an outcome desired by both), it leads to their inevitable separation.

FAQs


What is the theme of ‘A Thunderstorm In Town?

The poem attempts to paint a portrait of nostalgia and lovelorn regret. There are a few themes that could be drawn from Hardy’s poem: the comfort of sheltering with a loved one when things outside are chaotic and the regret of not being bold in a moment of chance intimacy.

How is irony important to ‘A Thunderstorm In Town?

The irony in Hardy’s poem is situational: two people (possibly returning from a date) wait out a thunderstorm in their carriage, a perfect moment for a romantic kiss that’s only recognized for what it is after the rain has stopped. As a result, the speaker can only reminisce about the memory or recognize the irony in retrospect.

Is there symbolism attributed to the storm in ‘A Thunderstorm In Town?

A more symbolic reading of the poem could lead to a greater emphasis on the images of two potential lovers hiding away in a thunderstorm. In many ways, they are indicative of the way people cling to one another in times of strife. After all, it’s the compelling nature of the juxtaposed coziness of the carriage with the tumultuous weather outside that is foundational to the poem’s mood and theme.


Similar Poems

A couple of other similar poems by Thomas Hardy include:

Here are a few more poems that might be of interest:

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Steven Ward Poetry Expert
About
Steven Ward is a passionate writer, having studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and being a poetry editor for the 'West Wind' publication. He brings this experience to his poetry analysis on Poem Analysis.

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