Written in 1899, ‘An August Midnight’ was released in 1901. Hardy’s second poetry book, Poems of the Past and the Present, included the poem. Poems of the Past and Present is a large collection that is subdivided into five sections and encompasses a broad range of themes. Some of Hardy’s most striking poems are included in this book. We are able comprehend the word ‘midnight’ in the title since Thomas Hardy was known for writing late at night.

About The Poet

Thomas Hardy OM was a novelist and poet from England. He was a Victorian realist in the traditions of George Eliot, and Romanticism impacted both his books and poetry. Thomas Hardy was fascinated by ‘natural history’ and the reappraisal of man’s existing relationship with nature.

Theme Of The Poem

The poem depicts a man’s interaction with five insects. The man and the insects, on the other hand, are presented as equals, eliciting sympathy for these little animals.

Stanza 1

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands…

The opening stanza establishes the setting. The use of words like “shaded lamp,” “waving blind,” and “beat of a clock” in the verse is able to effectively convey images to the reader. A winged longlegs, horned moth, and spined dumbledore all feature in this scene. It’s worthy to note that bumblebee is referred to as “dumbledore,” a distinct phrase that situates him in space and time. (The word dumbledore means bumblebee in old English.)

Stanza 2

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
—My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

The second verse of ‘An August Midnight’ focuses on the poet’s encounter with the insects. The narrator relates directly to the encounter with the four insects, emphasizing time and location through the lines “in this still place/ At this point of time, at this point in space”). He perceives himself as equal with the insects and writes about how they behave.

They move about the table and run into the lamp that has been placed on it. He considers them to be humbled animals that, even knowing they would perish, struck the lamp glass. Why did this happen, wonders the poet? It’s all part of God’s plan. Perhaps they are aware of earth’s secrets that the poet is unaware of.