Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thomas Hardy - Poetry

For the full list of posts and an explanation of the poetry series, please click on the 'Poetry' link at the bottom of this post.

This time I recognize the name of the poet, but I only know him as a novelist.  The following poem, 'Convergence of the Twain' is about the Titanic.

In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her; stilly couches she.

Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to thythmic tidal lyres.

Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls - grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?"

Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

Prepared a sinister mate
For her - so gaily great -
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.

And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

Alien they seemed to be:
Nor mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,

Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,

Till the Spinner of the Years
Said "Now!" And each one hears
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

This really is an interesting poem.  The ship, Titanic, and the iceberg that mortally wounded her did indeed have a date with destiny.  No one knew it, but even as the ship was being built, the iceberg broke off of the glacier and started its long journey down to the shipping lanes.  And then, as the poem says, "Now!" and they met.
I know there is a long history of connecting the sinking of the Titanic to hubris but I'm not that comfortable with that connection.  After all, we now build much bigger ships and take on much bigger projects.  Most of them succeed and some do so spectacularly.  If there is a moral here that we shouldn't let our reach exceed our grasp, well, I don't buy it.
I will admit that there is some striking poetry in the contrast of the luxurious ship at the bottom of the ocean with sea worms 'grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent'.  But that contrast is one that is almost always true of death and riches.
Overall a pretty good poem.  It's interesting and striking.  I don't agree with what I think is (at least part of) the message but that's ok.  Art isn't good or bad depending on whether we agree with it or not.

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