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The Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy - A Review by Barry Van-Asten
on 13 May 2012
The poetry of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is consistent with his attitude to language in which the written word should convey all the meaning, expression and power of speech with its many forms of dialect, an endeavour not unlike his poetic predecessors, William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Robert Browning (1812-1889). Hardy was a great experimenter with his verse, changing the poetic form, rhythms and stress, so many of his poems have a contemporary feel to them.
The Collected Poems, contains over nine-hundred poems from his eight published works: `Wessex Poems' (1898), `Poems of the Past and Present' (1902), `Time's Laughingstocks' (1909), `Satires and Circumstance' (1914), `Moments of Vision' (1917), `Late Lyrics and Earlier' (1922), `Human Shows' (1925) and `Winter Words' (1928).
Many of his poetic themes, as with his novels, focus on man's internal and external struggle with the indifferent force that rules, which inflicts upon him directly, the sufferings, pains and ironies of life and love. Hardy felt a deep `kin-ship' with the land around him and nature features heavily in his many poems, representing various `symbolic' moods and emotions. Also throughout his verse one finds a hideous sense of loss and lurking oppressiveness with a terrific vein of sexual tension, (and I here quote from two of my favourite Hardy poems): `The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing/ Alive enough to have strength to die; / And a grin of bitterness swept thereby/ Like an ominous bird a-wing...' [Neutral Tones, 1867 from `Moments of Vision'] And again in `We sat at the window' also from `Moments of Vision':
`We were irked by the scene, by our own selves; yes,
For I did not know, nor did she infer
How much there was to read and guess
By her in me, and to see and crown
By me in her.
Wasted were two souls in their prime,
And great was the waste, that July time
When the rain came down.'
Like his novels, Hardy's poetry has the power to leave a lasting impression on the reader and they cut through all the Victorian sentimentality to reveal a poet, true to his own soul! Wonderful!