The Search for a Form
TURNING FROM the question of style to the question of form, we can take at least one idea with us. Hardy was, as I have said, anti-formalist in his aesthetic; he insisted that "in a Work of art it is the accident which charms, not the intention; that we only like and admire" ( Early Life, p. 251), and he consistently Subordinated technique to thought in his own critical judgments. In discussing Hardy's style I suggested that this anti-formalist bias might be regarded as an aspect of Hardy's sense of his radical isolation from the intellectual and poetic tradition: if the traditional beliefs are dead, then the artistic process becomes a continual starting over. If this is true of Hardy's style, we might expect that it would also be true of the poetic forms he used--they should be personal and eccentric in something like the same way.
At first glance this does seem to be the case. It is quite true, as Edmund Gosse remarked in his appreciation of Hardy's poetry, that "his stanzaic invention is abundant; no other Victorian poet, not even Swinburne, has employed so many forms, mostly of his own invention. . . ." But we may question the rest of Gosse's sentence: ". . . and employed them so appropriately, that is to say, in so close harmony