The last stanza is the longest of the poem and is, arguably, where the most notable events of the poem take place. These final lines mark a turning point in this unspoken exchange between the speaker and the girl on the train. As the train ‘heave[s] noisily’ to leave the station, the silence of the previous stanza is broken and the poem changes momentum. The girl appears to be filled with confidence by the train and we are told that ‘only then’ (line 17) does she smile back at the speaker. The movement of the train, carrying her away from the speaker and ensuring that this exchange can only be a fleeting one, seems to embolden the girl so that she feels secure enough to engage with him, even if only briefly.
The speaker’s use of repetition becomes significant again at this point as he describes first the girl, and then himself, as suddenly feeling ‘daring and secure’ (lines 18 and 19). The fact that he describes them both in this way reflects the sudden moment of unity between them as they finally exchange smiles, briefly finding them in sync. They mirror each other here, with the speaker waving ‘back at her waving’ (line 19) as he watches the train pull away from him. Their progression to waving is perhaps inspired by the pair’s increased confidence as the train gathers speed, knowing that nothing more can come of this shared moment. The ‘atrocious speed’ gathered by the train as it leaves the station draws the pace of the poem on from the languid enjoyment of the brief moments described by the speaker in the earlier stanzas. The train, like time, is moving quickly and is beyond either person’s control.
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Oxfordshire or Gloucestershire
’, evoking ‘the birds / Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire’ that sing at the end of Thomas’s work. The return to the route laid out in Thomas’s poem may be read as a return to the expected journey, suggesting that the pair will now continue with their respective travels as if this encounter had never happened.