The Poetry of Thomas Hardy

I have been a huge admirer of Thomas Hardy and his books for a long time (my favourite books are Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Woodlanders, Far from the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge, and in that order), but I never previously had a chance to read his poetry and finally bought a collection of his Wessex Poems. Some find Hardy’s poems in this collection too grim, but I think they are simply hauntingly beautiful. Below I share my brief review, as well as two poems from the collection.

Wessex Poems and Other Verses [1898/2017] by Thomas Hardy★★★★1/2

I thought this was a wonderful collection of Thomas Hardy’s poems, touching on such themes as country life and romance, human character, doomed love, relative fleetness of youth and beauty, death and attempts to reconcile the depth of love with the passing of a loved one. There were a number of “supernatural” and “otherworldly” poems in this collection too, which makes it a perfect reading for a cosy autumn evening in or near Halloween. Melancholic, full of longing and simply beautiful, some of my favourites included Unknowing, the She, to Him series of poems and Her Immortality. Others are narratively interesting too, for example, The Dance at the Phoenix is about a woman of sixty who is swept by her memories when she hears the King’s-Own Cavalry is in town and goes dancing to unpredictable or maybe and sadly, predictable results, and in The Two Men, Hardy shows how two men are bound to meet the same destiny having the same schooling and similar inner beliefs.

 Unknowing 

When, soul in soul reflected,	
We breathed an æthered air,	
  When we neglected	
  All things elsewhere,	
And left the friendly friendless	        
To keep our love aglow,	
  We deemed it endless…	
  — We did not know!	
 
When, by mad passion goaded,	
We planned to hie away,	        
  But, unforeboded,	
  The storm-shafts gray	
So heavily down-pattered	
That none could forthward go,	
  Our lives seemed shattered…	        
  — We did not know!	
 
When I found you, helpless lying,	
And you waived my deep misprise,	
  And swore me, dying,	
  In phantom-guise	       
To wing to me when grieving,	
And touch away my woe,	
  We kissed, believing…	
  — We did not know!	
 
But though, your powers outreckoning,	        
You hold you dead and dumb,	
  Or scorn my beckoning,	
  And will not come;	
And I say, “’Twere mood ungainly	
To store her memory so:”	        
  I say it vainly —	
  I feel and know!

Thomas Hardy

She, to Him II

Perhaps, long hence, when I have passed away,

Some other's feature, accent, thought like mine,

Will carry you back to what I used to say,

And bring some memory of your love's decline.



Then you may pause awhile and think, "Poor jade!"

And yield a sigh to me - as gift benign,

Not as the tittle of a debt unpaid

To one who could to you her all resign -



And thus reflecting, you will never see

That your thin thought, in two small words conveyed,

Was no such fleeting phantom-thought to me,

But the Whole Life wherein my part was played;

And you amid its fitful masquerade

A Thought - as I in yours but seem to be.


Thomas Hardy, 1866

11 thoughts on “The Poetry of Thomas Hardy

  1. I was glad to see this post — Thomas Hardy’s poetry deserves to be more widely read and appreciated. He was one of those rare writers who produced excellent work in both prose *and* poetry, yet many readers only really know his novels.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post, Diana! I’ve never read Thomas Hardy’s poetry, other than excerpts here and there (and what yo
    u included in your post 🙂 ). Will look at more! I do love several of his novels. Impressive when novelists can also be excellent poets (Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker are a couple of other ones with that distinction).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoy also the verse of Thomas Hardy. My edition is “Collected poems of THomas Hardy”, edited by Heritage Illustrated Publishing, 2014. It’s a digital edition available in Amazon. I travel and the it’s practical to have a digital library. But it’s also present in my various anthologies of English Poetry.

    “Rain on the windows, creaking doors,
    With blasts that besom the green,
    And I am here, and you are there,
    An a hundred miles between!
    (…)
    “Is more than distance, Dear, or rain,
    And longer than the years!”

    Thomas Hardy, 1893

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hauntingly beautiful, indeed! “Unknowing”… hmm I gather it to be about a doomed romantic relationship. And the false sense of security the partners felt from it. While ignoring the rest of the world as it crumbled. What’s your interpretation?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to willemite51 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s