When I set out for Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away,
The rime was on the spray;
And starlight lit my lonesomeness
When I set out for Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away.
Thomas Hardy talks about a place called Layonnesse in the poem. In reality, the place is a reference to a place in Cornwall, a southwestern region known for its churches. It is also known for being the churches and old chapels. Cornwall is considered to be the place where the great king Arthur hailed from. Being an apprentice for architecture, Hardy visits a church in Cornwall to study the interiors and mouldings. Around the \(19th\) century, a lot of churches had to undergo renovation owing to the new developments and technological advancements in the Victorian era. Labourers were easily available and their tasks were made easier with the advancements. When the church underwent the restoration, Hardy's curiosity made him set out on a journey to Cornwall to learn the new techniques in architecture.
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A chapel in the 19th century
Hardy names the place where the church is situated as Layonnesse, which also means 'Lost'. The place is almost a hundred miles away from England. But Hardy does not mind the distance as long as it gives him insight. He recalls that when he set out for this place which was a hundred miles away, to satisfy his thirst for architecture, it was almost winter. He mentions it as rime on the spray. Rime refers to the frost that accumulates on surfaces during extreme cold. The spray refers to the leaves and branches on trees on which the frost is mounted upon. When he starts out on his journey, it was cold and bitter, signifying his own life, which was colourless and without meaning.
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Frost on a leaf
He emphasises on his lonesomeness by referring to the chillness in the air. He also states that the starlight, which is usually beautiful, existed only to light up his lonely existence. Starlight, which is generally positive, reiterates the lonesomeness of the poet. It seems to be the only hope for him in his otherwise dark life. He seems to have started off the journey with a purpose of finding a meaning to his lonesome life.
Meaning of difficult words:
LayonnesseA Mythical place near Cornwall
RimeFrost that gathers in winter
SprayLeaves and branches of trees
LonesomenessFeeling lonely
ChapelA small place of worship inside the church
ApprenticeA person who works for a meagre salary with the purpose of learning the art or trade
ArchitectureThe art of constructing or designing buildings
RenovationImproving a broken or damaged building
InsightA deep understanding of something
ReiterateTo emphasise for clarity
AccumulateTo gather in large quantity
FrostSmall white crystals that forms during winter
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2008). Honeydew. When I set out for Layonnesse - Thomas Hardy (pp. 105 - 106). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.