And Other Poems
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), the writer of a half dozen well-regarded novels and The Darkling Thrush and considerable other poetry that is still admired, writes classic, metered and rhymed poetry that concentrates on nature, and especially on birds. My problem with it is its subtly negative slant. In his featured poem, The Darkling Thrush, he writes in pertinent part:
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
At least he allows that the thrush may be aware of some reason for joy that Hardy has missed. In his Tess’s Lament, in a poetic tribute to his classic, gripping and tragic heroine of his novel, Tess of The D’Urbervilles, he has Tess give her last words lugubriously:
It wears me out to think of it,
To think of it,
I cannot bear my fate as writ,
I’d have my life unbe;
Would turn my memory to a blot,
Make every relic of me rot,
My doings be as they were not,
And gone all trace of me!
Tess is so painfully real, in his novel, real to the point of desperation. Would that Hardy still lived and that we could convince him to lighten the end of the tale of Tess and afford us peaceful sleep. I loved his (Must Read) Tess but abhorred his brutal denouement of her saga. His poems overuse the word “gloom” and generally offer us little relief:
There was a shade entombing
All that was bright of me.
This sums up this poet of woe. His tributes to Nature can’t overcome his morose mood. It’s so sad. Hardy was a medical doctor, who practiced medicine largely for free, as he so lamented their depraved lot in life, and he turned to writing to support his humble life style.