Archive | Classic Reading

Thomas Hardy’s Artistry in “The Darkling Thrush”

I teach Hardy every other year in my “Modern British Poetry“ course at Wells College, and this year I decided to use “The Darkling Thrush” to introduce his work to students, many of whom had not read him before. As I looked particularly closely at the poem in preparation for the class—and then, later, during […]

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Thomas Hardy’s “In Tenebris”: The Problem of Relativity

Click here (and scroll to the bottom of the page) to read the poem sequence. I’d like to start by making a claim that I have recently asserted elsewhere: The lyric poem is fundamentally elegiac. That is, the lyric constitutes both the inscription of a moment’s utterance and a memento mori—an object that cannot help […]

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“The Convergence of the Twain”: Thomas Hardy and Popular Sentiment

On April 15, 1912, on her maiden voyage, the British steamer Titanic, the world’s largest and most luxurious ship, struck an iceberg in mid-Atlantic and sank. The White Star Line’s ships had previously suffered major wrecks and loss of life in 1854, 1873, and 1893. But 1,500 people, more than half the Titanic’s passengers, died, […]

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Thomas Hardy: The Flexible Strength of “Neutral Tones”

How can you account for the love you have for a favorite poem?  One way is simply to say that it sparks personal associations for you. For me, that’s true in the case of “Neutral Tones,” as I suspect it is for the many who regard it as one their favorite Hardy poems. After all, […]

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Form as Moral Content in Thomas Hardy’s “During Wind and Rain”

Read the poem here. When beginning to think about the poem “During Wind and Rain” by Thomas Hardy, I thought it might be useful to go back for some context to the old pessimist Yvor Winters, who always had provocative things to say about form.  If he was a pessimist, well, so was Thomas Hardy.  […]

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The Light of Loss: Thomas Hardy’s “The Last Signal”

Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Last Signal” is one of his finest elegies. That is already saying a good deal, since a great many of his poems could be defined as elegiac in tone, if not actually in strict form. This clearly is the case with almost all of the poems written about his first wife, […]

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The Moving Scene: The Poetry of Descriptions

In one of the great misreadings of one poet by another, John Keats complained to his publisher that, in the poetry of John Clare, “the Description too much prevailed over the Sentiment.” For his part, Clare felt that Keats’s  “descriptions of scenery are often very fine but as it is the case with other inhabitants […]

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CPR Classic Readings: Philip Larkin’s “Broadcast”

While far from being the most ambitious and successful poem in The Whitsun Weddings, “Broadcast” seems to me in many ways among the most essentially Larkinesque of Philip Larkin’s poems, and at the same time the most uncharacteristically romantic.

Posted in Classic Reading, May 2010: Philip Larkin Special Issue, This MonthComments (0)

CPR Classic Readings: Philip Larkin’s “Here”

Philip Larkin’s 1964 volume, The Whitsun Weddings, contains two poems describing train-journeys. One of them is the volume’s title-poem and is one of the most famous (and best-loved) poems in English since the Second World War; it has been said that with this work he brought a whole new English landscape into poetry. The other […]

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CPR Classic Readings: “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by W.B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils […]

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