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THOMAS HARDY (1840-1928)

Although Hardy had been writing poetry since he was a young man, he did not find a publisher for his poems till he was 58. He had already made a living as a novelist for three decades, but, in his own words: “It’s natural to me to write poetry – I was never intended to be a prose writer, still less a teller of tales – but still, one had got to live.”

“Hardy had grown up in a home full of music, rhythm and rhyme […] Local words and local speech cadences are natural to his poems, many of them ballads, telling a story, with a questioner and answerer.” (Excerpt from four page introduction to The Little Chisel Of Never-Napping Time).

What is different about The Little Chisel Of Never- Napping Time is that it includes some early poems from Hardy’s first collection, Wessex Poems (1898), which are commonly left out of anthologies. The selection is divided into five sections starting with Wessex Roots, then Seasons, Choice And Fate, Grieving For Emma, and lastly, The Once, The Always, The To-Be.

The best tribute to this lasting and influential Dorset poet is to be found in the words of Philip Larkin. He said that in nearly every Hardy poem “there is a little spinal cord of thought and each has a little tune of its own.”
 
 


T H E H A U N T E R

He does not think that I haunt here nightly:
     How shall I let him know
That whither his fancy sets him wandering
     I, too, alertly go? –
Hover and hover a few feet from him
     Just as I used to do,
But cannot answer the words he lifts me –
     Only listen thereto!

When I could answer he did not say them When I could let him know How I would like to join in his journeys Seldom he wished to go. Now that he goes and wants me with him More than he used to do, Never he sees my faithful phantom Though he speaks thereto.

Yes, I companion him to places Only dreamers know, Where the shy hares print long paces, Where the night rooks go; Into old aisles where the past is all to him, Close as his shade can do, Always lacking the power to call to him, Near as I reach thereto!

What a good haunter I am, O tell him! Quickly make him know If he but sigh since my loss befell him Straight to his side I go. Tell him a faithful one is doing All that love can do still that his path may be worth pursuing, And to bring peace thereto.