Form and Structure
The poem consists of 40 lines, with five stanzas each measuring eight lines each, known as octets. The poem has a ABABCDCD rhyme scheme, in which each octet is divided into two. Many of these rhymes depend on the reader’s own pronunciation. The lines also alternate metrical patterns. Half of the lines are written in iambic trimeter, meaning they contain three sets of two beats. The first of these is unstressed and the second stressed. The other half conform to iambic dimeter, meaning they have two sets of two beats per line.
It has been speculated in the years since Hardy wrote ‘At an Inn’ that the events were inspired by a visit the poet made to an inn in Winchester. Where he was with a woman with whom he had a platonic relationship (Florence Henniker). The same friend appears in the poem, ‘A Broken Appointment.’ Hardy discusses how he and his listener were once staying at an inn. Upon entering the Inn they came into the building the employees smiled at one another, believing that the two were a couple.
Throughout their whole stay they were treated with a great warmth that encourages them to be together, however they were not in love. As the poem progresses, the speaker mourns the fact that at that moment he and his companion were unable to take advantage of the situation. Unfortunately, even though they are in love, they are unable to be together.