Sunday, May 16, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 5.3 (Thomas Hardy)

Selected Poetry
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Hardy, Thomas
Selected Poetry

Probably purchased at Rust Belt Books. I first heard of Thomas Hardy the poet via W.H. Auden. In a class I took as an undergraduate, we read Auden's book of essays, The Dyer's Hand, that contains an essay in which Auden doles out advice to young poets. I can remember sitting in the basement of the Fordham reading that essay.

He tells the would-be poet to seek a model poet to imitate, but to choose a one who is imperfect. He says there is basically nothing to learn but frustration and envy by reading someone like, for instance, Milton.

He suggests the young writer choose a model like Hardy, whose faults, upon multiple readings, become more and more apparent. That way, says Auden, the would-be poet will eventually feel he has mastered the master, faults and all, and will learn from them more than he could learn from studying the fortified verse walls of Milton.

I guess that is pretty good advice, if you can use it.

from Selected Poetry


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.

1 comment:

rdeming said...

When I did my comprehensive exam list with Creeley (on Poetry and poetics) he made me put Hardy's poems on the list--I think because there was a jump between the 19th century American to the moderists and felt that there should be something between. Fair enough. Of course, there was tons on the list and over the course of working with Creeley on this I could generally suss out which ones he'd have us talk at length about. Generally, though, meeting with him you talked about what was on his mind. Anyway, the one book that I skimmed, that I was in no way ready to talk about was Hardy's poems. Gven that the exam committee were three Americanists (more or less)--Susan Howe, Creeley, and Ken Dauber, I figured if there was any book I could just about skip, it was Hardy's poems.

Cut to the day of the exam. Susan and I are on time, actually early. Creeley eases into the room,and the first thing out of his mouth, "you know, I was just rereading Hardy's poems--he's terrific!" "Oh, I love Hardy," says Susan. "I'm sunk," think I. Those two work on whim and enthusiasm and I was terrified that it was going to be suddenly all questions about Hardy. Fortunately, that never materialized.