Friday 3 February 2012

Mr Hardy

The RSC are putting on an evening of the poetry of Thomas Hardy. Here's the link to the event:

Sadly, I'm going to miss it, but it has reminded me to reread his poetry because I haven't done so in ages. Hardy's poems are what really made me fall in love with English Literature. I studied them for GCSE and although I had been a rabid reader since I was but a scrap of a thing, I'd never connected with the subject at school. Not really. We read Far From The Madding Crowd, but Hardy's prose left me cold - I've tried since, I really have, but still with the meh. His poems, on the other hand, turned out to be a revelation.

On the surface, they might seem homely, but often they are twisted and wonderful. Many of them make me want to dig him up and slap him upside the head, but the impotent angst is just too addictive. His first wife, Emma, died suddenly and although they were estranged her loss hit him hard. He began churning out acres of mournful poetry about her, every line aching with his futile remorse. Remorse, you say? Yes, indeed. But how is that so? I don't recall him living out the rest of his life in heartbroken solitude. No indeed. This spurt of industry was in full effect when he married his second, much younger, wife, Florence (who had been his secretary) It seems to me that he spent most of his marriage to her bemoaning the loss of Emma. Quel ballbag. But my, they're good poesie.

Try any of his work - in a step away from his marital shitdickery, Convergence of the Twain, about the sinking of the Titanic (or, more to the point, about how Nature was just waiting to fuck that shit up) is one of my all time favourite poems:

      In a solitude of the sea
     Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

     Steel chambers, late the pyres
     Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

     Over the mirrors meant
     To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls -- grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

     Jewels in joy designed
     To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

     Dim moon-eyed fishes near
     Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?". . .

     Well: while was fashioning
     This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

     Prepared a sinister mate
     For her -- so gaily great --
A Shape of Ice, for the time fat and dissociate.

     And as the smart ship grew
     In stature, grace, and hue
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

     Alien they seemed to be:
     No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history.

     Or sign that they were bent
     By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one August event,

     Till the Spinner of the Years
     Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Of course, there's a lot more to Hardy than my pithy but sadly superficial scratch at his surface might suggest. So, I urge you to read his poetry. I really do.

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