On one of Hardy’s most haunting poems about the past
‘A Spellbound Palace’ is not one of Thomas Hardy’s best-known poems, but in our opinion it is one of his best. Focusing on Hampton Court Palace on the River Thames, and summoning memories of Tudor England during the time of Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII, ‘A Spellbound Palace’ is a moody and evocative poem that deserves more critical attention than it has received.
A Spellbound Palace
On this kindly yellow day of mild low-travelling winter sun
The stirless depths of the yews
Are vague with misty blues:
Across the spacious pathways stretching spires of shadow run,
And the wind-gnawed walls of ancient brick are fired vermilion.
Two or three early sanguine finches tune
Some tentative strains, to be enlarged by May or June: Read the rest of this entry
Hardy’s classic dog poem
‘A Popular Personage at Home’ was one of two poems Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) wrote about his beloved dog of 13 years, Wessex, who died in 1926, two years before Hardy himself. However, what makes ‘A Popular Personage at Home’ especially notable is that Hardy wrote the poem from the perspective of the dog, allowing ‘Wessex’ to speak for himself.
A Popular Personage at Home
‘I live here: “Wessex” is my name:
I am a dog known rather well:
I guard the house but how that came
To be my whim I cannot tell.
‘With a leap and a heart elate I go
At the end of an hour’s expectancy
To take a walk of a mile or so
With the folk I let live here with me. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of an early Hardy novel
A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873) was Tennyson’s favourite of all Thomas Hardy’s novels, and the poet Coventry Patmore (author of The Angel in the House) was enthusiastic about it, although he wished it had been written in verse. The working title for the novel was ‘A Winning Tongue Had He’ (a line from an English ballad called ‘On the Banks of Allan Water’); Hardy thought better and renamed it A Pair of Blue Eyes. This early Hardy novel has been unfairly neglected in the Thomas Hardy oeuvre, and deserves closer attention and analysis.
Although this novel is not usually included in lists of Hardy’s ‘great’ novels alongside Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and The Mayor of Casterbridge, it’s oddly representative of Hardy’s art and might even be said to mark the start of his maturity as a novelist. In this novel we find the seeds of his later novels being sown, most notably Tess, which is to some degree a reworking of the plot and themes of this novel. But at the same time, this novel shows Hardy returning to the very start of his novel-writing career, and his first, unpublished novel. So A Pair of Blue Eyes represents, weirdly, both very early Hardy, and the very late Hardy of Tess – it looks both forwards and backwards. Read the rest of this entry