poem index


Thomas Hardy

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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 in 1871, and was soon successful enough to leave the field of architecture for writing. His novels Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), which are considered literary classics today, received negative reviews upon publication and Hardy was criticized for being too pessimistic and preoccupied with sex. He left fiction writing for poetry, and published eight collections, including Wessex Poems (1898) and Satires of Circumstance (1912).

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 an extraordinary variety of meters and stanzaic forms. A significant influence on later poets (including Frost, Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin), his influence has increased during the course of the century, offering an alternative—more down-to-earth, less rhetorical—to the more mystical and aristocratic precedent of Yeats. Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928.

Selected Bibliography


Collected Poems (1932)
Moments of Vision (1917)
Satires of Circumstance (1914)
The Dynasts (1908)
Time's Laughingstocks (1909)
Wessex Poems (1898)
Winter Words in Various Moods and Meters (1928)


A Laodicean (1881)
A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873)
Desperate Remedies (1871)
Far from the Madding Crowd (1876)
Jude the Obscure (1897)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1897)
The Hand of Ethelberta (1876)
The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)
The Return of the Native (1879)
The Trumpet Major (1879)
The Well-Beloved (1897)
The Woodlanders (1887)
Two on a Tower (1882)
Under the Greenwood Tree (1872)

by this poet


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
   "Had he and I but met
   By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
   Right many a nipperkin!

   "But ranged as infantry,
   And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
   And killed him in his place.

   "I shot him dead because--
   Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course

That whisper takes the voice
Of a Spirit, speaking to me,
Close, but invisible,
And throws me under a spell
At the kindling vision it brings;
And for a moment I rejoice,
And believe in transcendent things
That would make of this muddy earth
A spot for the splendid birth