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Book reviews Hardy's Lyrics Brian Green. Hardy's Lyrics: Pearls of Pity. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. χ + 243 pp. $49.95 BRIAN GREEN has divided Hardy's Lyrics: Pearls of Pity into two main parts: his first three chapters, headed respectively "Nature," "The Hardyan Temper and Ethos," and "Hardy's Poetic Manifesto," are based on extensive reference to Hardy's fiction, autobiography, notebooks, correspondence, and many secondary sources; these serve as a preface to seven chapters in which Green explicates Hardy's lyrics. Thoroughness of scholarship is one hallmark of this study, and remarkable, certainly, is how in his first three chapters Green marshals complex evidences of Hardy's intellectual life into a coherent account of one of his characteristic world views and its relationship to his poetic practice. Of course the ideas that Green finds behind Hardy's lyrics are, taken individually, familiar to anyone seriously interested in Hardy. Green's contribution is to adduce their less obvious coherence by calling attention to how Hardy's view of man's situation in a blind and indifferent universe led to his sense not only of the tragic suffering of humanity but, also, to his hope that out of it—as pearls are generated from an oyster's distress—would come an increasing altruism which Hardy sought to encourage by his poetry. Such a brief outline will suggest something of the coherence that in his first three chapters Green manages to find in diverse views Hardy expressed both in prose and poetry over an extraordinarily long career. There is, inevitably, a reductiveness in any such characterization of Hardy's intellectual and emotional life—it was, of course, far messier than that—but Green is manifestly alert to the complexities of his subject, is nuanced in his treatment of them, and manages convincingly to call attention to relationships in Hardy's thought and art that are revealing but not always immediately obvious. In the following seven chapters Green examines particular strategies in which he finds Hardy's views embodied in his lyrics. Of these, the most successful, I think, are the last two—"The Dimensions of Home" and "Poems of 1912-13: The Process of Mourning"—which have the general heading, "Images of Solace." Here Green proceeds by close examination of Hardy's use of spatial images—enclosure, extension, and dimension—to reexamine poems as diverse as "Domicilium," "Amabel," "The Dream Is—Which?" and "The Going," and he uses that approach 477 ELT 40:4 1997 with remarkable tact to reveal some of the more subtle and telling of Hardy's poetic strategies. Green's other five chapters are concerned with what he calls "Strategies of Solace," which he identifies as "Revelation," "Rationalism," "Nescience," "Humanism," and "Personhood." These, for reasons I will spell out in some detail, are often less satisfactory. In each chapter, Green considers how, in his view, Hardy dramatizes a way that a person might cope with the human condition and find some "source of solace" in the face of "the Worst." Green concedes in his introduction that the positions taken by the speakers of individual poems are not "as staunchly distinct or definite as the chapter-headings might suggest" but argues that those headings "are there simply to organise and clarify the discussion." I find it difficult to see that the headings Green confesses are misleading would serve, somehow, to "clarify"; in fact, they often contribute to a confusion Green creates by including under them poems of very different kinds which, to make them fit one or another category, he then explicates in ways which distort rather than illuminate. Consider, for example, some of the poems he groups under "Revelation "—a "strategy of solace" he describes as "resorting to the (assumed) security of an absolute truth." One poem, "On Stinsford Hill at Midnight ," Green says "dramatizes the human need for achieving imaginative insight if one is to endure sublunary existence." This seriously misrepresents Hardy's poem. In it, the speaker meets a woman wandering on Stinsford Hill at midnight, who, in a fit of religious enthusiasm, happily sings "a wild wavering tune," shakes a timbrel, and is totally oblivious to him. The poem...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 477-480
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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