The major goal this summer for me is to imbibe deeply in poetry. I thought I would share someone I did not recognize as a major poet until recently and is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I stumbled across Thomas Hardy as a poet while reading the excellent (if sometimes dry) biography of Robert Penn Warren by Joseph Blotner. Apparently "Red" Warren encountered this poem and loved it.
I also ran across a great story in Blotner's biography that exhibits not only the death of a era but also the wisdom of "Red" Warren. While Warren was teaching at Yale at the end of his career the literary world was controlled by the ideology of class, race, marxism, etc. Student strikes and other issues controlled literary exploration and the actual contents of literature were left to the side.
During this time it is said Warren went into the first day of class on poetry and asked what seemed to him a simple request. "Can anyone here recite a poem?" The class looked blankly at him. No one spoke and all stirred uncomfortably in their seats. He than asked, "Can anyone tell me the outline of a short story?" Again uneasy silence. He went around the room asking people individually, hoping someone just didn't have the gumption to step into the spotlight. No one could do it. Warren got up and left the class. It was the last class he was to teach. For someone who could recite the Wasteland by Eliot and The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge by heart (among hundreds of other poems) this would just not do.
With sadness I must confess I would have also been the cause of Warren's disappearance. Hopefully this summer will remedy this.
There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand
For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand,
Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly,
I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I
have no comrade, not even the lone man's friend -
Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to
Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where one's next neighbour is the sky.
the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways -
Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days:
They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things -
Men with a frigid sneer, and women with tart disparagings.
Down there I seem to be false
to myself, my simple self that was,
And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause
Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this,
Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.
I cannot go to the great grey Plain;
there's a figure against the
Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune;
I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now
For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There's a ghost at
Yell'ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the
There's a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin lipped and vague, in a
shroud of white,
There is one in the railway-train whenever I do not want it near,
I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers,
I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers;
Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know;
Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest,
Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me,
And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.