Hap – Thomas Hardy

I intended to write about Rumi today but I haven’t read fast enough and my time is short, so allow be to briefly gush over one of my favourite poems.

I love Thomas Hardy. He was the poet whose works ignited my love for poetry. His economy of language is masterful and his occasionally archaic century old English is a delight to the language-enthusiast in me.

Hardy is also characteristically sad and skillful in describing his sorrow. To that end, there are few better examples from his corpus than Hap.

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstacy,
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”

Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
– Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan…
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

Hardy’s work isn’t characterized by fixed forms. Here he writes a sonnet in two quatrains and a sestet but abandons the rhyme scheme of a typical Petrarchan sonnet, which I love. Fitting for a poem dealing with such brokenness.

Many of Hardy’s most characteristic works are inspired by the loss of loved ones. Here Hardy explores a motif most of us are familiar with – trying to find meaning in tragedy. Or, rather, wanting meaning but not being able to find any. Rather than wishing for a silver lining or any shred of optimism, Hardy wishes his loss had at least been intentional, the profit of some malignant divinity. Instead, he views his loss as the working of ‘purblind doomsters’, taunting him with blessings or ‘blisses’ only to take them away at random caprice.

The words “But not so” are an excellent phrase with which to begin the turn and the punctuation helps the turn to settle.

Overall, I just love how Hardy articulates his feelings. He’s very articulate in describing his sorrow. Perhaps the irony of the poem is that his desperation to find meaning in his loss and his inability to find it was turned into such a wonderfully tragic poem that has survived the generations. Often when we can’t find the meaning of our sorrow we have to create a meaning ourselves, and Hardy turned his into the work that lets us share an experience that almost all of us will feel in our lives. In that sense, we are all very much together.

Okay, I’m gonna go watch The Two Towers. Y’all have a good one.


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