Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Excerpt

It was January 12, 1928, and a winter sunrise that gave my empty suburban street an unrecognisable look of splendour. I think the chimneys of our houses were of gold, and the walls and roofs of jasper and amethyst, which is nothing like them. That glowing and unfamiliar vista was as if I had surprised a secret celebration of the earth and sky; we were not supposed to see it; it was to fade into our own place before we were about. As I looked out on my changed street I was repeating the haunting thought of the night: "Hardy is dead." But the knowledge that our own light had gone out accorded with the colours of that high dawn. We so often associate a thought of Hardy with the aspect of the earth and sky. The heavens and the earth were always the chief characters in the dramas of that poet; over mere mortals presided the eternal sky and the shadowy presence of the earth. So it seemed right for the street to be empty, and to be strange with a transfiguring glow. Hardy had gone.

Within an hour, as the sunrise foretold, came the wind and rain. Roofs and sky turned to lead. The spurts of rain thickened the glass of my window. There was going to be time enough indoors to think about Hardy, yet to think to little purpose; not really to think, but to stare unseeing at the sullen clouds and the rain, for beyond them was a dream world more vivid and stable than the elements, a visionary country in which one had strayed in the reading of nearly forty years, and there had watched Destiny compelling men and women who were more real than one's neighbours -- even though one judged Destiny itself was often too conscious of its job to be real; and to remember the venerable little man, whose magic had established that sublimation of the real and changing world, as we saw him at Max Gate shortly before his fatal illness began, sitting with the flames of a log-fire reflecting in his quick eyes, while he talked blithely of poetry, speculated on the prehistoric earthworks to be seen from his house, and smiled at the gossip of the town.

But though there was all day to think about him, there was no likelihood of making a contribution to wisdom, no chance of a critical adjustment which would help to place the poet's urn with precision. For we cannot be dispassionate now. We cannot stand apart from our personal feelings, and so we cannot be critics, for in criticism, as we know, we ought to do what no man has ever done; we ought to consider the work of a poet apart from changeable human opinions, and see it simply as an isolated work of art, bereaved of kinship. Luckily for Hardy's contemporaries they are not called upon to be critics who will be strictly just to him by all those fundamental laws of art which yet . . .

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