Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Thomas Hardy

1840–1928

Thomas Hardy, the son of a stonemason, was born in Dorset, England, on June 2, 1840. He trained as an architect and worked in London and Dorset for ten years.

Hardy began his writing career as a novelist, publishing Desperate Remedies (Tinsley Brothers) in 1871, and was soon successful enough to leave the field of architecture for writing. His novels Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Osgood McIlvaine & Co., 1891) and Jude the Obscure (Osgood McIlvaine & Co., 1895), which are considered literary classics today, received negative reviews upon publication. He left fiction writing for poetry and published eight collections, including Poems of the Past and the Present (Harper & Bros., 1902) and Satires of Circumstance (Macmillan, 1914).

Hardy's poetry explores a fatalist outlook against the dark, rugged landscape of his native Dorset. He rejected the Victorian belief in a benevolent God, and much of his poetry reads as a sardonic lament on the bleakness of the human condition. A traditionalist in technique, he nevertheless forged a highly original style, combining rough-hewn rhythms and colloquial diction with a variety of meters and stanzaic forms. A significant influence on later poets (including FrostAudenDylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin), his influence has increased during the course of the century, offering a more down-to-earth, less rhetorical alternative to the more mystical and aristocratic precedent of Yeats. Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Macmillan, 1920)
Moments of Vision (Macmillan, 1917)
Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Macmillan, 1916)
Satires of Circumstance (Macmillan, 1914)
Time's Laughingstocks (Macmillan, 1909)
The Dynasts (Macmillan, 1904)
Poems of the Past and the Present (Harper & Bros., 1902)

Letters
Jude the Obscure (Osgood McIlvaine & Co., 1895)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Osgood McIlvaine & Co., 1891)
The Woodlanders (Harper & Bros., 1887)
The Mayor of Casterbridge (J. W. Lovell, 1886)
Two on a Tower (J. W. Lovell, 1882)
A Laodicean (Harper & Bros., 1881)
The Trumpet Major (Henry Holt & Co., 1880)
The Return of the Native (Henry Holt & Co., 1878)
Far from the Madding Crowd (Smith, Elder & Co., 1876)
The Hand of Ethelberta (Henry Holt & Co., 1876)
A Pair of Blue Eyes (Henry Holt & Co., 1873)
Under the Greenwood Tree (Tinsley Brothers, 1872)
Desperate Remedies (Tinsley Brothers, 1871)

Thomas Hardy

By This Poet

43

The Voice

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.

The Ruined Maid

"O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town? 
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?"--
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.

--"You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!"--
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.

--"At home in the barton you said 'thee' and 'thou,'
And 'thik oon,' and 'theäs oon,' and 't'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!"--
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.

--"Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!"--
"We never do work when we're ruined," said she.

--"You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!"--
"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.  

"--I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!"--
"My dear--a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she.

The Convergence of the Twain

(Lines on the loss of the "Titanic")

I

     In a solitude of the sea
     Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

II

     Steel chambers, late the pyres
     Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

III

     Over the mirrors meant
     To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls—grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

IV

     Jewels in joy designed
     To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

V

     Dim moon-eyed fishes near
     Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?". . .

VI

     Well: while was fashioning
     This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

VII

     Prepared a sinister mate
     For her—so gaily great—
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.

VIII

     And as the smart ship grew
     In stature, grace, and hue
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

IX

     Alien they seemed to be:
     No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history.

X

     Or sign that they were bent
     By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one August event,

XI

     Till the Spinner of the Years
     Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Related Poets