Poems of Mourning

Poems of Mourning [1998] by Peter Washington (ed.) – ★★★★1/2

This is an impressive collection of poems that concern loss and mourning from the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series. I found most of them absolutely beautiful, coming from such poets as Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, and Christina Rossetti. Some of them are fairly well-known, such as Bishop’s One Art, Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Hopkins’s Spring and Fall, and Auden’s Funeral Blues, while others are more obscure, including those that commemorate animals. The other great thing about this collection is that it makes an effort to present poets from around the world, so there are poems from François Villon, Abu Al-Ala Al-Ma’arri, Fyodor Tyutchev, Czeclaw Milosz, and Primo Levi. For similar books, see also my post The Poetry of Thomas Hardy, as well as my mini-review of Japanese Death Poems.

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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.

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