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183 SPECULATIONS The following speculative statements are intended to raise significant questions for discussion at the Conference on English Literature in Transition: The Poetry of Thomas Hardy. 1. Autobiography in Hardy's Poems By J. 0. Bailey (University of Norch Carolina) For Thomas Hardy, the saw "A poem is rather than says" makes only half sense, for nearly always a Hardy poem meanst To an unusual extent, his poems treat facts in his own experience and ¡n the lives of his friends. In poem after poem, factual data explicate an otherwise obscure meaning, about which, in many cases, a good deal of nonsense has been written. For example, Hardy's recently explored engagement to Tryphena Sparks explicates "Thoughts of Phena," Professor Purdy, commenting on "A Confession to e Friend in Trouble," rightly identified the friend as Horace MOuIe1 who later killed himself„ For other poems, the dota are more tenuous, and explication must rest uncertainly upon suggestions, similarities, straws in the wind. To what extent, for instance, is it fruitful to surmise the nature, of Moule's trouble? Is the "She" of "She at His Funeral" Tryphena Sparks at the funeral of Horace Moule? Is "My Cicely" an allegory of Hardy's visit to Topsham on the basis of a rumor that Tryphena had died —- a case of mistaken identity? Can "Amabel" be-linked with Julia Augusta Martin? The travelling boy of "Midnight on the Great Western" seems to be a portrait of Little Father Time in JUDE. Is it reasonable to read backward from this poem (and a few others on the same subject) to conjecture a hitherto hidden son of Hardy s, for whose existence only thin and doubtful evidence has been discovered? 2. Thomas Hardy's Reflective Poetry By Bruce Teets (Purdue University, Indianapolis Campus) Hardy's reflective, meditative, or introspective poetry consists of those poems in which the speaker Ί i, presumably the author himself as a persona, although not necessarily so¡ and of other contemplative places in which no persona overtly appears. In studying this kind of poetry, we find certain problems which have not yet been satisfactorily resolved. First among such difficulties is the undue emphasis upon Hardy as a thinker. Much has been written on this subject, and many so-called philosophical poems have appeared in anthologies; but an overemphasis on idea has distorted the general impression of Hardy's best productions. His poems about abstract ideas are frequently versified expositions of what has been assumed to be the poet's philosophy, although we may reasonably reject the concept of Hardy as a philosopher . Such poems usually consist, primarily of theoretical argumentation and lack concrete imagery, as do "A Philosophical Fantasy," "The Mother Mourns," and "God-Forgotten," thus providing inadequate examples of Hardy's best reflective poetry. 184 Closely related to this problem is the common assumption that Hardy is a pessimist. This conclusion may have been tacitly accepted from earlier commentators about his "twilight view of life," just as most critics still refer to the 130 scenes of THE DYNASTS (131 by actual count) and to Hardy's "biography" by the second Mrs. Hardy (written almost entirely by Hardy himself). A close inspection of the poems indicates that Hardy wrote with candor about serious problems of his time, taking the "full look at the V/orst" which he himself advocated, and thereby became not a pessimist but a realist At times the poet appears to be pessimistic, but the most optimistic of writers living through the last sixty years of the nineteenth century and then on into the twentieth to see his works misrepresented and nations involved in devastating wars could scarcely have avoided periods of depression. Hardy, however, is not pessimistic as Matthew Arnold is in "Dover Beach," as James Thomson is in "The City of Dreadful Night," or as A, E. Housman is in several of his most typical poems: his resilience is apparent in his most pessimistic poems as opposed to the dry finality asid despair sounded by real pessimists. From his earliest attempts at reflective poetry to his last efforts, Hardy plainly displays his innate attitude toward life—that of lo-.'es compassion, and hope for the human spirit...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
p. 183
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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