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Thomas Hardy's Style Of Poetry

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3156 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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In this paper we are going to study Thomas Hardy´s life including some of his works. Then we are going to include an overview of the twenty century in the most important and influential events in Hardy´s work. Later, we will continue studying his style in poetry, prose and drama. After that, we will introduce an analysis of three important poems and finally we will give conclusion and my personal point of view about this paper in general.

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Thomas Hardy´s life

Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, on June 2, in 1840. He was the first of four children born to Jemima (1814-1928) and Sr. Thomas Hardy (1811-1892), who was builder and stonemason. From his father, he gained an appreciation of music and from his mother, an appetite for learning and the delights of the countryside about his rural home. His mother had a great influence on his imagination, entertaining him with stories and songs, many of which would later inspire his Wessex tales.

At the age of 16 Hardy helped his father with the architectural drawings for a restoration of Woodsford Castle. The owner, architect John Hicks, was impressed by the younger Hardy’s work, and took him on as an apprentice until 1862, when Hardy was to London to work with the architect Arthur Bloomfield. When he was still devoted to the study of architecture, cultivated the Arts, and especially poetry, which was the most pleasant dream of his long life. Hardy cultivated poetry and prose both at the same time and has been consistently recognized for writing both genres. After some early attempts at writing both short stories and poems, he decided to concentrate on fiction. In 1871, he published his first novel, Desperate Remedies which was followed by Under the Greenwood Tree, in 1872 and A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In 1874, he was married with Emma Gifford. After the success of Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) Hardy turned to writing full time. He preferred his poetry to his prose. He thought his novels merely as a way to earn a living. But his best novels, The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), were much more than magazine fiction. His novels brought him money, fame, and acquaintance with greatness. At this time, he designs and supervises construction of his Dorchester home, Max Gate, where he lived from 1883 until his death. In 1898, the author published his first volume of poetry, Wessex Poems, a collection of poems written over 30 years.

In 1912, Emma died and Hardy wrote a collection of love poems dedicated to her called Poems of 1912-13.

In 1914 Hardy married Florence Emily Dugdale, who had been his secretary for several years. At that time, he wrote The Voice, a love poem which he dedicated to his deceased wife. In addition, other publications of his poetry were Poems of the Past and Present, 1901, Satires of Circumstance, 1914, Collected Poems, 1919 or Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres, 1928 (it was written a year before his death).

Furthermore, Hardy wrote drama. His two plays were The Dynasts, 1903 (it was published in three parts in 1903, 1905, and 1908) and The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, 1923.

Hardy became ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died at Max Gate just after 9 p.m. on 11 January 1928, having dictated his final poem to his wife on his deathbed; the cause of death was cited, on his death certificate, as “cardiac syncope”, with “old age” given as a contributory factor.


The works of Thomas can be classified as belonging to the 20th century. It is so difficult to know how to define 20th Century literature, as of course, many writers were already producing work at the end of the 19th Century and continued into the next one, as it is the case of Hardy.

The 20th century is marked by several movements and traditions, one of these, came from France that is the tradition of the bohemian life. In England, the growth of popular education, caused by the Education Act of 1870, brought the emergence of new journalisms. Pessimism and stoicism were cultivated at that time and specially, Hardy´s novels and poetry show the pessimism of the period.

At that time, English society was still dominated by the social classes. The Victorian laws about Christian faith and the differents ideologies of population about Socialism were a great influence upon literature; many intellectuals were concerned with finding something to believe in.

In Thomas Hardy´s period topics as death, discouragement, regret, loneliness, loss were the most present. At that time, appeared a new movement called The movement of literary decadence.

The Boer War (1899-1902) between imperialist and anti-imperialist British, the Irish question or the I World War (1914-1918) caused a great influence among the writers of the century. The coming of the First World War also produced and good poetry, there were some who saw the war in a romantic and sentimental light, like Rupert Brooke and others who reflected the harsh reality, brutality and furtivity of war as Wilfred Owen.

An important movement of the century was the imagist movement, which brought the usage of details and descriptions in order to create a sensory experience for the reader. “Imagism went in for the shot, sharply etched, descriptive lyric, but it had no technique for the production of longer and more complex poems” [1] . It marked the 20th century poetry and the birth of the Modernism. The Modernist movement was born between 1922−1925. It was movement that appeared as an efect of the postwar depression and also, it supposed a revolt against realism.

In The 1920’s caused one of the greatest movements of literary development in history and ended in 1929 with the economic crisis and the continued depression.

4. Style

For Hardy, “style should be a quality of writing that had to be perfected by each author individually”.

Hardy had a pessimist view on life and love. He wrote in variety of genres, from epic drama to cheerful ballads and he use a meticulous description of events and characters that are not limited to humans, and even nature and animals play a role in his works. He use sexual images in an explicit way and the plot of his novels distinguish his modern style of writing.

With his particular view of love he obtain a poetry different from others poets of his period. As I could appreciate, the sadness of romantic love is one of his main themes.

Many of his works are full of realism and his pessimism “describes nature with its cruelties and difficulties, but never with a sentimental approach” [2] 

In terms of grammar, we can see that Hardy used the subjunctive mood to hesitate or make assumptions. He used phrases outdated like “as it were”. Furthermore, his works contains long sentences and even, he uses, sometimes, nouns in the position and function of adjectives and verbs.

Thomas introduced in some of his works the Dorset dialect as an example of Old and noble English to prevent it loss.

In terms of poetry, he was inspired a lot in the Elizabethan poetry. Hardy preferred poetry and he wrote verse throughout his life. His pessimist view, which was in contrast with beauty of nature and optimism of Victorians, was against the public taste of his time. Many of his works are based on rural life, his life.

His poetry is full of vitality, versatility, musicality, control of language and poetic adaptation of old ways to new ways of doing poetry. Loneliness is introduced in all the poems and in all the feelings that they arise. All this must be added that death is very present in many of his poems, especially in his poems about war. An example of this poems about death is Ah, Are You Digging My Grave?

“His poems are traditional in form and structure, but also his themes, which as noted, are usually based on the everyday life” [3] . He published about 13 volumes of poetry.

Hardy´s poetry can be divided in three parts:

War poems, which were written at the times of the second Boer War (1899-1902) and the I World War (1914-1918). Most of them full of pessimism and sadness.

Poems about Emma, his first wife. He shows his loneliness in which he lived after the death of his wife. In these poems appear feelings of nostalgia, regret, and also a feeling of fault because of the loss of her soul of the poet

Philosophical and personal poems, which are full of references to his personal life and Emma.

5. Analysis

Hap [4] 

IF but some vengeful god would call to me

From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,

Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,

That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”

Then would I bear, and clench myself, and die,

Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;

Half-eased, too, that a Powerfuller than I

Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,

And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?

–Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,

And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan….

These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown

Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

“Hap” [5] is referred to “chance”. This word has disappeared in modern English but at the time of the poem it had several meaning as chance, luck or fortune. The poem is divided into three stanzas and it is written in first person.

In the first stanza, Hardy rejects the religious standard of God, and imagines [6] one who delights in loss and suffering, “IF but some vengeful god would call to me from up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing”. In this stanza seems that Hardy doubts about God existence.

In the second stanza, Hardy describes the presence of this imagined vengeful god as a relief by knowing the truth as to why he is suffering pain, “Then would I bear, and clench myself, and die”. Hardy also expresses the idea that people accept this suffering because they are “half-eased”(line 3) by the presence of a higher being.

In the last stanza, hardy thinks that the gods are not voluntarily subjecting him to pain and suffering in order to pleasure themselves. The image of “unbloom” (line 2) symbolizes hope falling to pieces as a rose may unbloom. With terms like “Crass Casualty”, Hardy means “chance”.

In the last two lines of his poem he writes about the fact that random chance has indifferently given him as many blessings as sufferings in his life.

In this poem appear a few examples of alliteration as “love’s loss” (line 4) or “meted me” (line 8), but with no overall discernible purpose. Furthermore, in the last stanza Hardy uses a caesura, an ellipsis, and a rhetorical question. The poem contains several metaphors as “a Powerfuller than I” (it is referred to God) or “purblind Doomsters” [7] .

“The Voice” [8] 

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,

Saying that now you are not as you were

When you had changed from the one who was all to me,

But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,

Standing as when I drew near to the town

Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,

Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness

Travelling across the wet mead to me here,

You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,

Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,

Leaves around me falling,

Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,

And the woman calling.

This poem belongs to a series of poems about Emma, Hardy´s first wife. It is divided into four stanzas.

In the first stanza It is describes as Hardy imagines that Emma is communicating with him to tell him about how she feels now. “There is a change of tenses that suggest the evolution of the relationship between Emma and Thomas” [9] 

In the second stanza, Hardy doubt if it is true that he can hear his wife, that woman that he loved.

But in the third stanza, that doubt becomes reality, he will never hear his wife more “Heard no more again far or near”.

In the fourth and last stanza, hardy is immersed in his loneliness “Thus I; faltering forward, Leaves around me falling…” Hardy uses images as “leaves” or “wind oozing” making allusion to the autumn.

In the poem, the imagery used by Hardy is: “Wind oozing thin” (line 15) referred to Emma´s voice disappearing. In terms of alliteration, the poet include several examples of it as in the first line, there is an alliteration of “m”: “Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me”. In this example, Hardy also show us an example of repetition “call to me, call to me”.

Drummer Hodge [10] 

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest

Uncoffined – just as found:

His landmark is a kopje-crest

That breaks the veldt around;

And foreign constellations west

Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –

Fresh from his Wessex home –

The meaning of the broad Karoo,

The Bush, the dusty loam,

And why uprose to nightly view

Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain

Will Hodge forever be;

His homely Northern breast and brain

Grow to some Southern tree,

And strange-eyed constellation reign

His stars eternally.

The above poem is based on a war, but more especifically in the Boer War. Furhermore, it shows the critical opinion that Hardy had about all the wars in a clear way.

In the first stanza there is a lack of respect for the Hodge “They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest. “Thrown” is said in a derogatory tone, as if the soldier were an object instead of a human being. Lines 3 and 4 are referred to the remoteness of the soldier´s house “His landmark is a kopje-crest that breaks the veldt around” and the use of Afrikaans terms such “Kopje” and “veldt” enhances this fact.

In the second stanza, Hardy shows us the soldier´s youth and naivety by using Afrikaans terms as “Karoo” that he did not know because of he left home soon and he had the opportunity to learn nothing about Africa as a country and the war.

The last stanza explain the idea of how the soldier becomes a part of the country in which he fought against, “Yet portion of that unknown plain Will Hodge forever be” (line 1-2). In this stanza, Hardy explain us how in wars, innocents always die. With the last line, “His stars eternally” it can be identified the Hodge as a symbol after his death fighting in the Boer War.

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The poem is written in the first stanza in present tense, in the second stanza in past tense and in the third stanza in future tense. Drummer Hodge consists of three six -lined verses in simple ballad rhythm. Hardy uses several images in this poem as “stars”, “night”, “plain”, “tree” and also makes allusion to Dorset, his town, using the term “Wessex”. This poem contains several metaphors as “unknown plain” that is referred to Africa plain or “Drummer Hodge”, referred to the innocent soldier. The poem contains alliterations as can be seen in the first stanza with the use of “d” (drummed, unconfined, found, around, or mound).

6. Conclusion

As I said before, now, I´m going to give my personal point of view and a reflection about Thomas Hardy in terms of his life and works.

From my personal point of view I have to say that this author has been very interesting to me. The poems that I have analyzed in this paper are not difficult to read and also show, in a perfect way, the feelings and the ideals of the author.

In The Voice, Hardy shows us the loneliness that he felt when his wife Emma died and it makes me think that he was a man in love despite of his pessimist thoughts about love.

In short, I have to say that Thomas Hardy is one of the poets who knew how to demonstrate discouragement, regret and his feelings properly in his poems.

Nowadays, his poetry is appreciated, both for his elegant and objective prose and for the irony and natural melancholy. It is considered a forerunner of many contemporary poets such as Ph. Larkin, R. Graves or W.H. Auden.

7. Bibliographical References

Traditional Sources:

MEDINA CASADO, Carmelo. “Poetas Ingleses Del Siglo XX”. Editorial Sintesis. España, 2007.

“The Norton Anthology, English Literature”, Seventh Edition, vol. 2. Harvard University. W.W. Norton & Company. New York. London.1962.

Electronic Sources:

http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/20century/welcome.htm (29/11/2010)

http://www.britainexpress.com/History/bio/hardy.htm (28/10/2010)

http://www.epdlp.com/escritor.php?id=1801 (28/10/2010)


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