Saturday, 8 January 2011

A Saturday Celebration: Thomas Hardy

A Saturday Celebration:     Thomas Hardy

This Tuesday marks the death of one of Britain's most finest writers, today One Stop Poetry celebrates the work of poet & writer  Thomas Hardy, who died 11th January 1928.

Hardy is famous for writing so many classic fictional tales, Far from the Madding Crowd & Tess of the D'Urbevilles, to name just two, but he always preferred to be known as a poet, writing novels for financial gain only. As a poet his was prolific, having written over 800 poems before his death, and most having been published!

Thomas Hardy was born 2nd June 1840 in Higher Bockhampton, situated in the small parish of Stinsford, near Dorchester, Dorset. His father, also named Thomas, was a stonemason & builder.  Despite showing great academic potential, a college education was unaffordable, so at the age of 16 Thomas was to become an apprentice to a local architect in his village. Such was Hardy's promise at this that in 1862 he enrolled at King College, London, as a student of Architecture, winning many prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects & the Architectural Association. Hardy was to spend 5 years in London before returning to Dorset following concerns over his health.

In 1870 Hardy was to travel to Cornwall and undertake work on the restoration of St Juliots Church. It is here that he was to meet and fall in love with Emma Lavinia Gifford, whom he married in 1874. As a side note, St Juliots is situated very near Tintagel, my favourite place in the World. It was on a walk one day from Boscastle, a neighbouring village, through Valency Valley, heading inland, when my wife and I were to take shade at a Church looking down across the valley. Whilst taking rest we became aware that this was St Juliots, the Church restored by Hardy himself!

Emma was the love of Hardy's life and all though they were to be separated, she remained the main focus of his work. On her death in 1912, Hardy would undertake a trip to Cornwall revisiting the places linked to their courtship, resulting in the collection of Poems 1912 - 13, which reflects on her passing.

Although Hardy was to marry his secretary in 1914, who was nearly 40 years his junior, his love for Emma never waned. Having contracted pleurisy in the December, Hardy was to die on 11th January, 1928. At the nations request he was to be buried in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey, although his family and friends wished for him to be buried alongside Emma at the parish church in Stinsford where he was born. Eventually a compromise was agreed whereby his heart was buried with Emma and his ashes at Poets Corner. Alongside Hardy at Poets Corner lay other notable literary genius's such as Alfred Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Browning & Geoffrey Chaucer to name but a few.

On Sunday 16th January there is to be a memorial service held at Westminster Abbey, with a reading of his poetry to mark the 83rd anniversary of his burial.

Hardy was admired by many, including D H Lawrence, Robert Graves, Virginia Wolf and more recently Philip Larkin. In 1910 he was to be bestowed with the Order of Merit, which recognised his services to Literature.

The list of work associated with Hardy is immense, as well as the poetry, plays and short stories, the following are all novels written by him;

  • Desperate Remedies (1871)
  • Under the Greenwood Tree (1872)
  • A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)
  • Far From the Madding Crowd (1874)
  • The Hand of Ethelberta (1876)
  • The Return of the Native (1878)
  • The Trumpet Major (1880)
  • A Laodicean (1881)
  • Two on a Tower (1882)
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
  • The Woodlanders (1887)
  • A Group of Noble Dames (1891)
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)
  • Jude the Obscure (1895)
  • The Well-Beloved (1897)
Today, One Stop Poetry would like to bring you two poems by Thomas Hardy,

At Castle Boterel
by Thomas Hardy

As I drive to the junction of lane and highway, 
And the drizzle bedrenches the waggonette, 
I look behind at the fading byway, 
And see on its slope, now glistening wet, 
Distinctly yet

Myself and a girlish form benighted
In dry March weather. We climb the road
Beside a chaise. We had just alighted
To ease the sturdy pony's load
When he sighed and slowed.

What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of
Matters not much, nor to what it led, -
Something that life will not be balked of
Without rude reason till hope is dead, 
And feeling fled.

It filled but a minute. But was there ever
A time of such quality, since or before, 
In that hill's story? To one mind never, 
Though it has been climbed, foot-swift, foot-sore, 
By thousands more.

Primaeval rocks form the road's steep border, 
And much have they faced there, first and last, 
Of the transitory in Earth's long order; 
But what they record in colour and cast
Is - that we two passed.

And to me, though Time's unflinching rigour, 
In mindless rote, has ruled from sight
The substance now, one phantom figure
Remains on the slope, as when that night
Saw us alight.

I look and see it there, shrinking, shrinking, 
I look back at it amid the rain
For the very last time; for my sand is sinking, 
And I shall traverse old love's domain
Never again. 


The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate, 
When Frost was spectre-gray, 
And Winter's dregs made desolate 
The weakening eye of day. 
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 
Like strings of broken lyres, 
And all mankind that haunted nigh 
Had sought their household fires. 

The land's sharp features seemed to me 
The Century's corpse outleant, 
Its crypt the cloudy canopy, 
The wind its death-lament. 
The ancient pulse of germ and birth 
Was shrunken hard and dry, 
And every spirit upon earth 
Seemed fervorless as I. 

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, 
With 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. 


Historical Notes

Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 and died in 1928, living to be almost 88 years of age. During his life time the word was to change greatly. 

To put the duration of his life into some perspective, the year that Hardy was born, 1840, also saw Queen Victoria marry Prince Albert and the introduction of the very first stamp, the penny black. In 1928, the year of his death, Andy Warhol was born, & Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time in the animated cartoon "Plane Crazy".


izzy said...

Thanks ! Thomas Hardy is one of my favorite writers. Tess was a great story for me, just when I needed it. Far from the Madding crowd was a close second.

the walking man said...

I like his voice and feel his longing for his past in the first but I am curious about the second.

When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate

are Frost and Winter intentionally proper nouns or are they typos?

One Stop - The Place For Poets, Writers and Artists said...

i can see why you asked the question but he also used Century & Hope in the same way...its a pity he is not around to ask? all the best Pete

Fireblossom said...

This is synchronicity for me, because only yesterday I was talking to Hedgewitch about "Jude The Obscure."

I saw the movie version of "Far From The Madding Crowd" at an art theater when I was in my mid 20s. That made me want to read the book, so I did, and then also read "Return Of The Native", "Tess" and "Jude". The man is a marvel. I love the way nature pervades his work, and I think he creates exceedingly interesting female characters.

The publishing dates of his novels, taken together with the span of his life, show that he didn't write a novel over the last 33 years of his life! This was because he grew so disgusted with critics, that he vowed never to write niovels again, and he didn't. The loss is ours.

Thank you, Thomas, for Jude Frawley, Eustacia Vye, Tess, Gabriel Oak, and all of the others. They've meant a great deal to me. They are some of my favorite literary friends.

And thank you, Pete, for featuring this author!

Hope said...

I found your feature on Thomas Hardy, very well done. I thank you for introducing me to him. His poetry is alluring and captivating and will certainly look into more about him and his works. :)

thank you

One Stop - The Place For Poets, Writers and Artists said...

Thanks Pete I've always loved Hardys literary works and his works of poetry. Fitting that his heart was buried with the love of his life.

Wanted to remind people who are on twitter that we go live tomorrow with #ospchat at 3:30 EST

Great weekend to all

dustus said...

Excellent spotlight, Pete. Hardy's poetry is clear, concise, and deep. I'm a fan of his novels (Tess... being my favorite), and also find it upsetting to learn through the comments (@Fireblossom) of his disgust toward critics leading to the end of his writing novels. And despite that, what a prolific literary talent!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful spotlight Pete, very much enjoyed and well written.

I want to second Moonie:
Wanted to remind people who are on twitter that we go live tomorrow with #ospchat at 3:30 EST


Anonymous said...

I've never read Thomas Hardy now that's a shocker! I didn't even know he wrote poetry. Glad you bought this to us ignoramii!

ds said...

I love Hardy's poetry; "The Darkling Thrush" is a favorite. Thank you for sharing "At Castle Boterel"; I did not know it.

Arron Palmer said...

Excellent article on Thomas Hardy Pete. The man was the first poet I ever read and really introduced me to poetry. His poems of regret and longing are never overly-depressive, rather they are quite beautiful to me. That is heart was buried with Emma is so fitting.

Though my favourite poet of all time is (Hardy admirer, ironically, as you point out) Philip Larkin, my favourite poem of all time is Hardy's 'Faintheart in a Railway Train'- never have the concepts of regret and Life's missed opportunities been more perfectly and humorously captured in just two stanzas!

Great piece, I'd like to see these Anniversary Biographies and Tributes to bygone poets become a regular thing- could really introduce some new people to your favourite poet and everybody could contribute? I'd be up for doing Larkin.

Cheers Pete.