Nobody Comes

Since only one question has ever been asked about ‘Nobody Comes’, here is some last-minute, pre-exam, admittedly very general analysis of the poem:

Written in 1924, the overall impression of the poem is of isolation. Given that both cars and telegraph wires are designed to be able to connect people who are separated by distance, it is ironic that these new forms of communication only result in further disconnect and isolation. The title, ‘Nobody Comes’, is suggestive of expectation of an arrival that is denied (appropriate given that Hardy wrote the poem while his wife was in London for an operation, but he did not accompany her).

Right from the beginning of the poem Hardy creates an impression that the natural world is weakening or dying. The tree-leaves “labour up and down”, with labour carrying connotations of hard work or even physical suffering. The light is “fainting”, literally conveying that the sun is setting but giving an impression of physical weakness, and later it “succumbs to the craw of night”, with “succumbs” suggesting giving up or abandoning a struggle (and possible hope, since light is usually associated with hope). Even night as weak, as it can only “crawl”.

This visual image that is inherently silent is then interrupted by the telegraph wire which seems both sinister and out of place. It emerges from a land that is “darkening” both figuratively and literally, and it “intones to travelers like a spectral lyre/Swept by a spectral hand.” It almost seems like a siren of old the way it intones, and lyre certainly is suggestive of something classical, perhaps Greek. That it is spectral makes it ghost-like, sinister and mysterious, lending to the generally ethereal atmosphere. What is in fact telephone wires humming in the breeze becomes a strange and surreal sound that has been unheard by previous generations untouched by industrialization; nature seems to be at odds, and is being defeated by, the technology of the twentieth century.

The second stanza turns from general description to action as a car intrudes upon the scene, violent and unpleasant. The lamps are “full-glare”, with glaring being an angry, aggressive action, and when they “flash upon a tree” it seems almost like an attack on nature. The colon at the end of the second line of the second stanza entices the reader on, but rather than continuing the idea, we are offered a declaration of separation: “It has nothing to do with me”. This is the first intrusion of a speaker into the poem, and appears only to suggest his failure to become part of the events he describes. Though the car (the driver of which is never mentioned- it seems the vehicle itself possesses a sinister agency that is entirely separate from humans) is an arrival, it does not violate the principle that “nobody comes”, so disconnected is the speaker from aggressive technology. Rather, the car “whangs along”, an unpleasantly gutteral and jarring onomatopoeia, “in a world of its own”. The car does not just fail to connect with the speaker; it is entirely insular, and its influence on the natural world is negative both literally and figuratively. It leaves a “blacker air”, both in the sense of the pollution from the exhaust pipe and in the sense of the more negative, dark atmosphere it leaves behind it (especially in the thoughts of the speaker).

Despite the sound of the telegraph wires and the car, the speaker remains “mute”, trapped in the oppressive silence that remains. He stands “by the gate”, which manages to both convey indecision- a gate is a liminal space in between one location and another, where the speaker remains, neither going nor staying- and also suggest he may be somehow trapped. He stands “again alone”, creating sympathy for the speaker in that while literally he is alone again now that the car has passed, there is a sense that this is a familiar state he previously has experienced. The final declaration, “And nobody pulls up there”, suggests that the approach of a car is exactly that for which he had hoped, perhaps waiting for news or a visitor that does nor arrive. It is a final, damning, and isolating statement.


By Kate O’Connor


Hope this helps! Please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments section.

12 thoughts on “Nobody Comes

  1. Hey, THIS WEBSITE IS AWESOME! Helping me sooooo much! Thank you for the great info, and I did hope to see the notes for Nobody Comes, but at least I got the other ones which I was weak in! Thanks once again!

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