This poem by Thomas Hardy seems to convey a horrible message that years steal people's lives and run them into death. At all times whether it be winter, spring, summer or fall, time will be ticking as will the so-called biological clock. Within each situation, whether it be holidays, or time with family, the years will remind the old that they will soon be gone. Reading this poem the first time leaves a depressing and truly discouraging sense of age to a young reader.
The poem begins as the year ends, in the winter possibly around the holidays. The scene is set around a family celebrating singing Christmas carols, and one family member at the piano. Candles light the faces of the people featured. Happiness is in this place. However, a storm is on the way, as the sick leaves reel down in throngs.
Spring follows the cold winter and the young and old come together to clear the moss to create a pathway to the garden. The family is happy, then the years go by and a storm builds up once again. White stormbirds fly across to warn of the trouble ahead.
Trailing behind is summer. Again the family merrily lives. The men and women breakfast under a tree. They look out to the water as the dog walks toward them. They are content but the years have come to haunt them once again. The rotten dead rose has been ripped from the wall.
Fall brings misery to the families of the prior seasons. They move to a "higher house" meaning heaven. Death has come and the belongings of the taken people are out on the lawn to be sold to the highest bidder. The years have driven these people out of their bodies. The years have damaged more than just their bodies, as years go by and rain falls and the names on the gravestones of the deceased become faded by the water.
The meaning of the poem seems to be that time takes away life and constantly reminds people that they will soon die, even on the happiest of occasions. Then ...