Late Lyrics and Earlier

Late Lyrics and Earlier

LATE LYRICS AND EARLIER THOMAS HARDY Contents: Apology Weathers The maid of Keinton Mandeville Summer Schemes Epeisodia Faintheart in a Railway Train At Moonrise and Onwards The Garden Seat Barthelemon at Vauxhall "I sometimes think" Jezreel A Jog-trot Pair "The Curtains now are Drawn" "According to the Mighty Working" "I was not he" The West-of-Wessex Girl Welcome Home Going and Staying Read by Moonlight At a house in Hampstead A Woman's Fancy Her Song A Wet August The Dissemblers To a Lady Playing and Singing in the Morning "A man was drawing near to me" The Strange House "As 'twere to-night" The Contretemps A Gentleman's Epitaph on Himself and a Lady The Old Gown A night in November A Duettist to her Pianoforte "Where three roads joined" "And there was a great calm" Haunting Fingers The Woman I Met "If it's ever spring again" The Two Houses On Stinsford Hill at Midnight The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House The Selfsame Song The Wanderer A Wife Comes Back A Young Man's Exhortation At Lulworth Cove a Century Back A Bygone Occasion Two Serenades The Wedding Morning End of the Year 1912 The Chimes Play "Life's a bumper!" "I worked no wile to meet you" At the Railway Station Upway Side by Side Dream of the City Shopwoman A Maiden's Pledge The Child and the Sage Mismet An Autumn Rain-scene Meditations on a Holiday An Experience The Beauty The Collector Cleans his Picture The Wood Fire Saying Good-bye On the tune called The Old-hundred-and-fourth The Opportunity Evelyn G. Of Christminster The Rift Voices from things growing in a Churchyard On the Way "She did not turn" Growth in May The Children and Sir Nameless At the Royal Academy Her Temple A Two-years' Idyll By Henstridge Cross at the year's end Penance "I look in her face" After the War "If you had known" The Chapel-organist Fetching Her "Could I but will" She revisits alone the church of her marriage At the Entering of the New Year They would not come After a romantic day The Two Wives "I knew a lady" A house with a History A Procession of Dead Days He Follows Himself The Singing Woman Without not within her "O I won't lead a homely life" In the small hours The little old table Vagg Hollow The dream is--which? The Country Wedding First or Last Lonely Days "What did it mean?" At the dinner-table The marble tablet The Master and the Leaves Last words to a dumb friend A drizzling Easter morning On one who lived and died where he was born The Second Night She who saw not The old workman The sailor's mother Outside the casement The passer-by "I was the midmost" A sound in the night On a discovered curl of hair An old likeness Her Apotheosis "Sacred to the memory" To a well-named dwelling The Whipper-in A military appointment The milestone by the rabbit-burrow The Lament of the Looking-glass Cross-currents The old neighbour and the new The chosen The inscription The marble-streeted town A woman driving A woman's trust Best times The casual acquaintance Intra Sepulchrum The whitewashed wall Just the same The last time The seven times The sun's last look on the country girl In a London flat Drawing details in an old church Rake-hell muses The Colour Murmurs in the gloom Epitaph An ancient to ancients After reading psalms xxxix. xl. Surview APOLOGY About half the verses that follow were written quite lately. The rest are older having been held over in MS. when past volumes were published on considering that these would contain a sufficient number of pages to offer readers at one time more especially during the distractions of the war. The unusually far back poems to be found here are however but some that were overlooked in gathering previous collections. A freshness in them now unattainable seemed to make up for their inexperience and to justify their inclusion. A few are dated; the dates of others are not discoverable. The launching of a volume of this kind in neo-Georgian days by one who began writing in mid-Victorian and has published nothing to speak of for some years may seem to call for a few words of excuse or explanation. Whether or no readers may feel assured that a new book is submitted to them with great hesitation at so belated a date. Insistent practical reasons however among which were requests from some illustrious men of letters who are in sympathy with my productions the accident that several of the poems have already seen the light and that dozens of them have been lying about for years compelled the course adopted in spite of the natural disinclination of a writer whose works have been so frequently regarded askance by a pragmatic section here and there to draw attention to them once more. I do not know that it is necessary to say much on the contents of the book even in deference to suggestions that will be mentioned presently. I believe that those readers who care for my poems at all--readers to whom no passport is required--will care for this new instalment of them perhaps the last as much as for any that have preceded them. Moreover in the eyes of a less friendly class the pieces though a very mixed collection indeed contain so far as I am able to see little or nothing in technic or teaching that can be considered a Star-Chamber matter or so much as agitating to a ladies' school; even though to use Wordsworth's observation in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads such readers may suppose "that by the act of writing in verse an author makes a formal engagement that he will gratify certain known habits of association: that he not only thus apprises the reader that certain classes of ideas and expressions will be found in his book but that others will be carefully excluded." It is true nevertheless that some grave positive stark delineations are interspersed among those of the passive lighter and traditional sort presumably nearer to stereotyped tastes. For-- while I am quite aware that a thinker is not expected and indeed is scarcely allowed now more than heretofore to state all that crosses his mind concerning existence in this universe in his attempts to explain or excuse the presence of evil and the incongruity of penalizing the irresponsible--it must be obvious to open intelligences that without denying the beauty and faithful service of certain venerable cults such disallowance of "obstinate questionings" and "blank misgivings" tends to a paralysed intellectual stalemate. Heine observed nearly a hundred years ago that the soul has her eternal rights; that she will not be darkened by statutes nor lullabied by the music of bells. And what is to- day in allusions to the present author's pages alleged to be "pessimism" is in truth only such "questionings" in the exploration of reality and is the first step towards the soul's betterment and the body's also. If I may be forgiven for quoting my own old words let me repeat what I printed in this relation more than twenty years ago and wrote much earlier in a poem entitled "In Tenebris": If way to the Better there be it exacts a full look at the Worst: that is to say by the exploration of reality and its frank recognition stage by stage along the survey with an eye to the best consummation possible: briefly evolutionary meliorism. But it is called pessimism nevertheless; under which word expressed with condemnatory emphasis it is regarded by many as some pernicious new thing (though so old as to underlie the Christian idea and even to permeate the Greek drama); and the subject is charitably left to decent silence as if further comment were needless. Happily there are some who feel such Levitical passing-by to be alas by no means a permanent dismissal of the matter; that comment on where the world stands is very much the reverse of needless in these disordered years of our prematurely afflicted century: that amendment and not madness lies that way. And looking down the future these few hold fast to the same: that whether the human and kindred animal races survive till the exhaustion or destruction of the globe or whether these races perish and are succeeded by others before that conclusion comes pain to all upon it tongued or dumb shall be kept down to a minimum by lovingkindness operating through scientific knowledge and actuated by the modicum of free will conjecturally possessed by organic life when the mighty necessitating forces-- unconscious or other--that have "the balancings of the clouds" happen to be in equilibrium which may or may not be often. To conclude this question I may add that the argument of the so- called optimists is neatly summarized in a stern pronouncement against me by my friend Mr. Frederic Harrison in a late essay of his in the words: "This view of life is not mine." The solemn declaration does not seem to me to be so annihilating to the said "view" (really a series of fugitive impressions which I have never tried to co-ordinate) as is complacently assumed. Surely it embodies a too human fallacy quite familiar in logic. Next a knowing reviewer apparently a Roman Catholic young man speaks with some rather gross instances of the suggestio falsi in his article of "Mr. Hardy refusing consolation" the "dark gravity of his ideas" and so on. When a Positivist and a Catholic agree there must be something wonderful in it which should make a poet sit up. But . . . O that 'twere possible! I would not have alluded in this place or anywhere else to such casual personal criticisms--for casual and unreflecting they must be- -but for the satisfaction of two or three friends in whose opinion a short answer was deemed desirable on account of the continual repetition of these criticisms or more precisely quizzings. After all the serious and truly literary inquiry in this connection is: Should a shaper of such stuff as dreams are made on disregard considerations of what is customary and expected and apply himself to the real function of poetry the application of ideas to life (in Matthew Arnold's familiar phrase)? This bears more particularly on what has been called the "philosophy" of these poems--usually reproved as "queer." Whoever the author may be that undertakes such application of ideas in this "philosophic" direction--where it is specially required--glacial judgments must inevitably fall upon him amid opinion whose arbiters largely decry individuality to whom IDEAS are oddities to smile at who are moved by a yearning the reverse of that of the Athenian inquirers on Mars Hill; and stiffen their features not only at sound of a new thing but at a restatement of old things in new terms. Hence should anything of this sort in the following adumbrations seem "queer "--should any of them seem to good Panglossians to embody strange and disrespectful conceptions of this best of all possible worlds I apologize; but cannot help it. Such divergences which though piquant for the nonce it would be affectation to say are not saddening and discouraging likewise may to be sure arise sometimes from superficial aspect only writer and reader seeing the same thing at different angles. But in palpable cases of divergence they arise as already said whenever a serious effort is made towards that which the authority I have cited--who would now be called old-fashioned possibly even parochial--affirmed to be what no good critic could deny as the poet's province the application of ideas to life. One might shrewdly guess by the by that in such recommendation the famous writer may have overlooked the cold-shouldering results upon an enthusiastic disciple that would be pretty certain to follow his putting the high aim in practice and have forgotten the disconcerting experience of Gil Blas with the Archbishop. To add a few more words to what has already taken up too many there is a contingency liable to miscellanies of verse that I have never seen mentioned so far as I can remember; I mean the chance little shocks that may be caused over a book of various character like the present and its predecessors by the juxtaposition of unrelated even discordant effusions; poems perhaps years apart in the making yet facing each other. An odd result of this has been that dramatic anecdotes of a satirical and humorous intention (such e.g. as "Royal Sponsors") following verse in graver voice have been read as misfires because they raise the smile that they were intended to raise the journalist deaf to the sudden change of key being unconscious that he is laughing with the author and not at him. I admit that I did not foresee such contingencies as I ought to have done and that people might not perceive when the tone altered. But the difficulties of arranging the themes in a graduated kinship of moods would have been so great that irrelation was almost unavoidable with efforts so diverse. I must trust for right note-catching to those finely-touched spirits who can divine without half a whisper whose intuitiveness is proof against all the accidents of inconsequence. In respect of the less alert however should any one's train of thought be thrown out of gear by a consecutive piping of vocal reeds in jarring tonics without a semiquaver's rest between and be led thereby to miss the writer's aim and meaning in one out of two contiguous compositions I shall deeply regret it. Having at last I think finished with the personal points that I was recommended to notice I will forsake the immediate object of this Preface; and leaving Late Lyrics to whatever fate it deserves digress for a few moments to more general considerations. The thoughts of any man of letters concerned to keep poetry alive cannot but run uncomfortably on the precarious prospects of English verse at the present day. Verily the hazards and casualties surrounding the birth and setting forth of almost every modern creation in numbers are ominously like those of one of Shelley's paper-boats on a windy lake. And a forward conjecture scarcely permits the hope of a better time unless men's tendencies should change. So indeed of all art literature and "high thinking" nowadays. Whether owing to the barbarizing of taste in the younger minds by the dark madness of the late war the unabashed cultivation of selfishness in all classes the plethoric growth of knowledge simultaneously with the stunting of wisdom "a degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation" (to quote Wordsworth again) or from any other cause we seem threatened with a new Dark Age. I formerly thought like so many roughly handled writers that so far as literature was concerned a partial cause might be impotent or mischievous criticism; the satirizing of individuality the lack of whole-seeing in contemporary estimates of poetry and kindred work the knowingness affected by junior reviewers the overgrowth of meticulousness in their peerings for an opinion as if it were a cultivated habit in them to scrutinize the tool-marks and be blind to the building to hearken for the key-creaks and be deaf to the diapason to judge the landscape by a nocturnal exploration with a flash-lantern. In other words to carry on the old game of sampling the poem or drama by quoting the worst line or worst passage only in ignorance or not of Coleridge's proof that a versification of any length neither can be nor ought to be all poetry; of reading meanings into a book that its author never dreamt of writing there. I might go on interminably. But I do not now think any such temporary obstructions to be the cause of the hazard for these negligences and ignorances though they may have stifled a few true poets in the run of generations disperse like stricken leaves before the wind of next week and are no more heard of again in the region of letters than their writers themselves. No: we may be convinced that something of the deeper sort mentioned must be the cause. In any event poetry pure literature in general religion--I include religion because poetry and religion touch each other or rather modulate into each other; are indeed often but different names for the same thing--these I say the visible signs of mental and emotional life must like all other things keep moving becoming; even though at present when belief in witches of Endor is displacing the Darwinian theory and "the truth that shall make you free men's minds appear as above noted to be moving backwards rather than on. I speak of course somewhat sweepingly and should except many isolated minds; also the minds of men in certain worthy but small bodies of various denominations and perhaps in the homely quarter where advance might have been the very least expected a few years back--the English Church--if one reads it rightly as showing evidence of "removing those things that are shaken" in accordance with the wise Epistolary recommendation to the Hebrews. For since the historic and once august hierarchy of Rome some generation ago lost its chance of being the religion of the future by doing otherwise and throwing over the little band of neo-Catholics who were making a struggle for continuity by applying the principle of evolution to their own faith joining hands with modern science and outflanking the hesitating English instinct towards liturgical reform (a flank march which I at the time quite expected to witness with the gathering of many millions of waiting agnostics into its fold); since then one may ask what other purely English establishment than the Church of sufficient dignity and footing and with such strength of old association such architectural spell is left in this country to keep the shreds of morality together? It may be a forlorn hope a mere dream that of an alliance between religion which must be retained unless the world is to perish and complete rationality which must come unless also the world is to perish by means of the interfusing effect of poetry--"the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; the impassioned expression of science" as it was defined by an English poet who was quite orthodox in his ideas. But if it be true as Comte argued that advance is never in a straight line but in a looped orbit we may in the aforesaid ominous moving backward be doing it pour mieux sauter drawing back for a spring. I repeat that I forlornly hope so notwithstanding the supercilious regard of hope by Schopenhauer von Hartmann and other philosophers down to Einstein who have my respect. But one dares not prophesy. Physical chronological and other contingencies keep me in these days from critical studies and literary circles Where once we held debate a band Of youthful friends on mind and art (if one may quote Tennyson in this century of free verse). Hence I cannot know how things are going so well as I used to know them and the aforesaid limitations must quite prevent my knowing hence- forward. I have to thank the editors and owners of The Times Fortnightly Mercury and other periodicals in which a few of the poems have appeared for kindly assenting to their being reclaimed for collected publication. T. H. February 1922. WEATHERS This is the weather the cuckoo likes And so do I; When showers betumble the chestnut spikes ...