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Wessex Poems and Other Verses (Dodo Press) Paperback – 4 May 2007

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About the Author

Thomas Hardy (1840 1928), enduring author of the twentieth century, wrote the classics Jude the Obscure, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and many other works.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but why not buy a collection? 21 Feb. 2010
By Bill R. Moore - Published on
Format: Paperback
Poetry was Thomas Hardy's true literary love, but lack of early success led him to take up prose, and he eventually became one of the world's best and most successful novelists. However, he continued writing poems, and when controversies surrounding his novels became too much for his peace of mind, he decided to begin publishing them. 1898's Wessex Tales was his first collection and got generally strong reviews, formally establishing him as a poet. Later collections were more ambitious - thematically deeper and far more diverse in form -, but the first book remains in many ways one of his best. This is unsurprising in that it was not a first book in the usual sense; Hardy was fifty-eight, and the poems were written and perfected over more than thirty years. It is essentially a "Best Of" for what he had written, as many poems were held back. As the title indicates, many are set in Wessex, the part-real, part-dream country based on Hardy's native Southwest England and made world famous in his fiction. They thus have significant appeal to fans of the novels, especially as they deal with classic Hardy themes like unrequited love, fate, chance, humanity's insignificance, and the universe's indifference. Some poems have a youthful vitality missing from later work; though less great than the latter by any reasonable standard, these relatively unpolished works have a charm all their own that fans will distinctly appreciate.

The collection opens with "The Temporary The All," the awkward writing of which ironically makes it probably Hardy's least accessible poem, though it is notable for immediately establishing central themes. Anyone intimidated by it should not give up, as there are many classic poems demonstrating Hardy's clarity, concision, and emotional directness. Indeed, some of my favorites are here, including "Hap," "A Confession To A Friend In Trouble," "Neutral Tones," "Her Dilemma," the "She To Him" sequence, "The Impercipient," and "`I Look Into My Glass.'"

These and many others are essential to anyone interested in Hardy's poetry. However, it is important to remember that Hardy continued writing poems over the next thirty years, publishing seven collections not counting long dramatic work. More importantly, in contrast to nearly all artists, his work remained consistent. Collected editions are thus ideal, especially as many are available, including some for little or no more than this single book. Only those who for some reason want Wessex Poems as a standalone should bother with anything else, great as this is in itself.
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