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Thread: Thomas Hardy anniversary

  1. #1
    The Reddleman Diggory Venn's Avatar
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    Thomas Hardy anniversary

    Thomas Hardy died 89 years ago today at his house Max Gate, on the outskirts of Dorchester. This is one of my (many) favourite poems of his;

    `An August Midnight`

    A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
    And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
    On this scene enter - winged, horned, and spined -
    A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
    While `mid my page there idly stands
    A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands...

    Thus meet we five, in this still place,
    At this point of time, at this point in space.
    - My guests besmear my new-penned line,
    Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
    "God`s humblest, they !" I muse, Yet why ?
    They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

    The scene of the poem is his study at Max Gate. It was written in 1899 and appeared in his second volume of verse, `Poems of the Past and the Present`, published in 1901.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Another one:

    The Sun On The Bookcase

    Once more the cauldron of the sun
    Smears the bookcase with winy red,
    And here my page is, and there my bed,
    And the apple-tree shadows travel along.
    Soon their intangible track will be run,
    And dusk grow strong
    And they have fled.

    Yes: now the boiling ball is gone,
    And I have wasted another day….
    But wasted-wasted, do I say?
    Is it a waste to have imagined one
    Beyond the hills there, who, anon,
    My great deeds done,
    Will be mine alway?
    Thomas Hardy
    (From Poem Hunter)
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Yet another one:

    A Broken Appointment

    You did not come,
    And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb. -
    Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
    Than that I thus found lacking in your make
    That high compassion which can overbear
    Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake
    Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
    You did not come.

    You love not me,
    And love alone can lend you loyalty;
    - I know and knew it. But, unto the store
    Of human deeds divine in all but name,
    Was it not worth a little hour or more
    To add yet this: Once, you, a woman, came
    To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
    You love not me?

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    The Reddleman Diggory Venn's Avatar
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    Hi Seumas99,

    As you may know, `A Broken Appointment` concerns Hardy`s infatuation with Mrs Florence Henniker. She refused to return his advances however, citing her Christian beliefs would not allow her to break her marriage vows. He, on the other hand, had long since eschewed his beliefs... (He later used her as a model for Sue Bridehead in `Jude the Obscure`). The poem is set in the British Museum, and tells of a "broken appointment" between them (ie she did not turn up). It was published in 1902, some years after the event. He certainly had a roving eye for a pretty face !
    Last edited by Diggory Venn; 01-19-2017 at 05:58 AM.

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    Hi Diggory Venn,

    Thanks for the information! It changes the impact of the poem to know that it refers to a married woman. Since she refused Hardy's advances, it seems that Jude had slightly more success with Sue but their relationship combines with various other factors to leave Jude worse off than if Sue had remained with Phillotson. It depends on exactly how precise a model Mrs Henni ker was for Sue but perhaps Hardy realised that sleeping with her (with her views) would ultimately have left them both miserable. Maybe also he wanted someone to be (even momentarily) successful with a woman in the Hennik er/Bridehead mould, though 'Jude the Obscure' is hardly a novel of indulged fantasies.

    Regardless, I've always liked the poem, especially the way he reproaches her that "love alone can lend you loyalty"; really just the sad fact that she would not come for "lovingkindness' sake" alone (though given his feelings perhaps she was wise not to).
    Last edited by Seumas99; 01-19-2017 at 01:56 PM.

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    The Reddleman Diggory Venn's Avatar
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    Hi Seumas99,

    It is well worth looking into this chapter of his life. I think there are about a dozen of his poems relating to his (imaginary ?) love affair with Florence Henniker, and they collaborated together on a short story entitled `The Spectre of the Real`, which was published after `Jude the Obscure`. The "Broken Appointment" poem was written in 1893 so the incident would have occurred around that time. They remained friends until her death in 1923 and their letters to each other were published in 1972 as `One Rare Fair Woman`. Typically for Hardy, she was 15 years his junior. He seemed to have a penchant for the younger ladies...

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    Just out of interest, what were some of the poems that refer to their "affair"? Presumably "Wessex Heights" as it mentions "one rare fair woman" but are there many others?

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    The Reddleman Diggory Venn's Avatar
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    The 7th stanza of `Wessex Heights` is certainly about Mrs Henniker. To varying degrees the following poems are considered to be about her:

    A Thunderstorm in Town
    At an Inn
    In Death Divided
    Come Not; Yet Come !
    The Recalcitrants
    He Wonders About Himself
    The Division
    The Coming of the End
    Lost Love-Word
    Alike and Unlike
    The Month`s Calendar

    `At an Inn` is one of my favourites. It concerns an assignation they had at a pub in Winchester, The George, which still stands today..

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