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Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2013
Hardy’s Humanistic Vision
Aesthetic mode of Transcendence
An Epistemological Perspective
Thomas Hardy the reputed novelist, poet, playwright and story writer has made his presence felt in the literary arena in an emphatic manner. The aim of this study is to draw a new light in his poetic oeuvre to illuminate those aspects of his vision which were hitherto less known. He is primarily known as a novelist par excellence producing a bulk of masterpiece novels in English. At the same time he has written almost 900 lyrics which stand as a testimony to his poetic genius.
In the words of Donald Davies, “In British Poetry of the last fifty years the most far reaching influence, for good and ill has been not Yeats, still less Eliot or Pound, not Lawrence, but Hardy.” (Davies 3)
Poetry always remained very close to his heart. He primarily conceived himself as a poet. He himself confessed it: In fiction he felt, he was merely “holding his own”; poetry he said was the more individual part of his literary fruitage. He took up novel writing because he could not earn his livelihood as a poet and he returned to poetry as he had earned income from his novels. He agrees with Leslie Stephen who believes that: “The ultimate aim of the poet is to touch our hearts by showing his own.” (Qtd. in Harvey 228)
Hardy started writing poetry at the age of 55. At the end of 1898 he published his first volume Wessex Poems which gained mixed critical reception. Friends like Swinburne and Leslie Stephens gave it a warm response. But at the same it produced acrimony in his married life that resulted in his estrangement with wife Emma to that extent that they lived apart with no children in the same house.
Three years after the appearance of Wessex Poems Hardy was ready to publish his second volume of verses which he named as Poems of the Past and the Present (1901) containing 99 poems. The first group of poems was titled as War Poems which established him as the first major “War poet” of the 20th century. The poems were written in the context of Boer war and it’s aftereffects. The collection received a better response as compared to the previous one.
Meanwhile Hardy also started working on his ambitious project grand epic drama Dynasts which dealt with the functioning of blind immanent will on the actions of human beings. The backdrop was the great historical events occurring in Napoleon’s Europe. It was published in three parts. Part I in 1904(1000copies), Part II in 1906(1500 copies) and Part III in 1908(1500copies). Though Dynasts was not universally accepted as his most successful work yet it managed to establish his critical acclaim. Arthur Symons’s observation is worth considering here:
Most of what here and there seemed, in passing faults- seem at the end to be out so much rough, needful mortar, building the vast structure … You have made poetry of a unique kind; the whole effect would have been lost if you had written it all on any higher a level of speech … And I can’t tell you with what joy I assured myself, after some doubting by the way, that you have done the immense thing you set out to do;not that you can have any doubt of it, but I had to come to my own conclusion for myself. Now I see that you have crowned the edifice of the whole work of your lifetime. Everyone will see it, if not now in time. (Symons 69)
In the summer of 1909 Hardy gathered up 94 poems written over a period of 40 years and published them in a third collection entitled Time’s Laughingstocks. The best of Hardy’s poetry came in the year 1912-13 after the death of his wife Emma. Despite her age, frailty and estranged relationship with Hardy her demise came to Hardy as an unexpected shock. He laid a wreath at her grave, inscribed “from her Lonely Husband, with the old affection.” A month after her death, Hardy wrote to a close friend that despite their differences and Emma’s delusions, his life was intensely sad without her.
The Poems of 1912-13 first appeared in Hardy’s fourth collection, Satires of circumstances, Lyrics and Reveries, which was published in November 1914, shortly after the outbreak of war with Germany. Though little noticed in literary circles of that time it became immensely popular among readers and critics later on. David Perkins, in his history of Modern Poetry from the 1890’s to the High Modernist Mode, highly praised these Poems of 1912-13:
Shortly after (Emma’s) death, the seventy three year old poet composed the deeply personal group of poems he colorlessly entitled, ‘Poems of 1912-13’, a series of lyrics about his wife and their life together that, with their vivid memories, passion, tenderness, bitterness, grief, resentment and remorse, present a complicated, authentic human situation and make up the most remarkable elegy written in the modern period. (Qtd. in Martin 5)
Hardy’s biographer Claire Tomlin also observed that:
Emma’s death is the moment when Hardy became a great poet and calls the “Poems of 1912-13 among the most original elegies ever written, in feeling and in the handling of language and their verse forms. They make up one of the finest and strangest celebrations of dead in English Poetry. (Tomlin 17)
In 1917a new collection entitled Moments of Vision, containing 159 poems appeared. It was the largest collection that he published. The recurring theme apart from the war poems are related to the unimportance of humans in an indifferent universe and Hardy’s romance with his first wife and her death.
In 1922 the next collection of 151 poems entitled Late Lyrics and Earlier appeared. Half of this work was written in earlier years and half according to Hardy quite lately. Human Shows Far Phantasies appeared in 1925 with 152 poems, the last volume published in his lifetime. Winter Words appeared in 1928 after his sad demise. Hardy wanted to publish this collection on his 90th birthday but he died at the age of 87.
Thomas Hardy’s creative oeuvre was formed by his first-hand experience imparted to him by his family and second hand experience imparted to him by Dorset neighborhood through storytelling and folk traditions. He was born in Higher Bockhampton, about two miles away from the town of Dorchester. He belonged to humble origins. His father was a stone mason and his mother worked as a cook and maid before her marriage. From his father he derived the love of music and interest in the public and social life of the English countryside and his mother passed on to her son her great love of reading. Before he was ten he was well versed with Dryden and Johnson. Her mother also communicated to him her reserve and her awareness of life’s little ironies which later on became a significant element of his tragedies. Both his father and paternal grandfather were important members of the StinsfordParishChurch choir. In Paul Turner’s words: “apart from parental influences, Hardy’s childhood was dominated by two things: the local Church and the natural world around him”. (Turner 6) Although he could not get formal education for further study in the university yet his mother apprenticed him to John Hicks whose company prepared him for intellectual stimulation as well as a sound professional training of an architect. He developed love for the classics. According to his official biography, he would get up to read for two years.He read virtually nothing but poetrybetween five and eight a.m. before going off to work in the morning. During his apprenticeship, he developed friendship with William Barnes, an accomplished poet in the Dorset Dialect. From him he learnt the use of local materials in literature and about structure and sound values in poetry. He also became a close friend of Dorchester minister Horace Moule with whom discussions on religion shaped his viewpoint on Christianity. After completing his apprenticeship in 1860, he worked for another two years as a paid employee. Before turning 26, Hardy went to London.
In this great city he was able to indulge his artistic interests through frequent visits to galleries and attendance at concerts and operas. He also met Arthur Bloomfield who was well known for his work in the design and restoration of churches, and therefore churchyards and graves also find a place in his novels and poetry. One such poem of his is entitled Copying Architecture in an Old Minster. The visual descriptions in this poemreflecthis widespread reading and the inclination towards visual arts. He made regular visits to the international exhibition at south Kensington to see the fine collections of painting and was a frequent visitor to the national gallery of art.
Hardy was keenly interested in music as well. His interest in music was further accentuated by listening to the composers like Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Meyerbeer and Bellini. In an article in the Thomas Hardy Journal, Colin Boone has mentioned that Hardy’s love of music was not only confined to religious, folk and popular music of that time but he possessed a considerable knowledge of classical music as well. (Qtd. in Gibson 25)
Hardy was majorly influenced by the Romantic vision of poetry. In his Life he wrote that “In verse was concentrated the essence of all imaginative and emotional literature” that clearly reflects his influence and interest.
Like Browning’s Grammarian Hardy was also a man of letters. He was a voracious reader who pursued the realm of knowledge till his death. The day he died he was trying to read J.B.S.Haldane’s latest book of popular science, Possible Worlds. Hardy’s readings definitely influenced his poetic creations. The writers who notably influenced him were Leslie Stephen, Francois Fourier, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig Feuerbach, Auguste Comte, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Edward von Hartmann. Thomas Hardy’s philosophy of Altruism is credited to Comtean thought. Hardy derived a large influence from Schopenhauer which is indicative from his notebook entries. He owned translations of The World as will and idea and On the Four fold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in which he marked a passage asserting that “a will must be attributed to all that is lifeless.” Thomas Hardy’s philosophy is an inevitable part of his artistic sensitivities, probing intelligence, imaginative sympathy and an acute vision. It is also important to remember that Hardy wrote more than nine hundred poems. Out of that only about fifty treat philosophic questions in a direct way. Mostly his poems are the result of the impression of the moment. In his Preface to the Winter Words, his last volume he reveals that: “I also repeat what I have often stated on such occasions, that no harmonious philosophy is attempted in these pages – or in any bygone pages of mine, for that matter.”(Qtd.in Millgate 4)
Though Hardy projected that he did not have any harmonious philosophy of his own yet he was deeply philosophical. Hardy’s perspective to observe the world and the objects in it was quite varied. In his poems the cosmic view of the whole scheme of life alternates with the personalized specific awareness of living things. The cosmic perspective of the law is called amoral because it is either unconscious or incapable of understanding the doom of mankind. Hardy often perceived human consciousness as an epiphenomenon or an accidental development in evolutionary terms.
Hardy differed from other Victorian poetsas his poems dealt with the dramatic situations. His poems dealt with the real situations and were connected to the common life. He had the penetrating eye to describe the reality of his life, other persons’ lives and the historical past which touched human lives.
Thomas Hardy’s poems are the amalgamation of various patterns. On the one hand he was influenced by the patterns found in Shelly and Keats and on the other by the patterns found in the works of Schopenhauer, Ruskin and Darwin. The world was traditionally conceived as web seen or woven by mind, imagination’s web and patterns that was a characteristically found in the poems of Shelly and Keats. The characteristic pattern of Schopenhauer was epistemological and personal webs of experience and the veining network of the immanent will.The characteristic pattern of Ruskin was more of the scenic and sketchbook style, and that of Darwin was the webs of natural law. Hardy blends them all in his poetic oeuvre.
One of the characteristic features of Hardy’s poetry is the theme of regret and making the personal tragedy in to universal tragedy. In the words of Joanna cullan Brown “one awakens to understanding too late”. Hardy’s uniqueness lies in that he makes personal tragedy into a form of universal tragedy. Lyton Strachey in this regard opines that, “A flashlight is turned for a moment upon some scene or upon some character, and in that moment the tragedies of whole lives and the long fatalities of human relationships seem to stand revealed,” characteristic of universal tragedy in human life.
Typology is another important characteristic of Hardy’s poetry. The expression of poetry in Hardy was latent for a long time till it got flowered and blossomed in the form of verses. Hardy believed that he could bury an emotion in his heart or brain for forty years only to express it at a later stage with the same freshness as it was while burying. This is evident from the fact that Hardy started writing poems at the age of 55. This is indicative of the fact that there are numerous thoughts and emotions that can lay latent in the heart only to get expressed at an appropriate time. These latent thoughts and emotions when expressed later as verses have past and reminiscence of earlier times. There are references to the biblical text of either Old Testament or New Testament. There are instances of projection in Near Lanivet 1872 as presented in the following verses:
She leant back, being so weary, against its stem …
And laid her arms on its own,
Made her look as one crucified ...
In the above verses a woman is holding a hand post and leaning against it in a weary state. Both her arms are stretched sideways as if they are hanging on their own. The face is down sideways and the whole figure is akin to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
Wessex finds a prominent place in both novels and verses of Hardy. More than a geographical location Wessex is an imaginary place, where the past meets the present. Hardy’s memories, experience and sense of history is represented in this place. Wessex occupies the space of consciousness in his verses.Hardy’s well known poems like The Convergence of Twain, The Tramp Woman’s Tragedy, The Mock Wife, To an Unborn Pauper child are some of the poems where the history and rural traditions of the place are described at length.
Hardy’s concept of nature is an important element in his poetry. Nature is an inseparable entity for man. Mostly it serves as a background of his poems. In Wessex poems low hills, trees, farms, fields are in the background to serve the actual reality of place. Nature is presented as a living being which brings out the human emotions in a poignant manner.
Hardy’s treatment of love is another important dimension in his poetry. Mostly his poems deal with the broken love affairs and disappointments in love but in his poetic volume dedicated to his wife Emma he recalls the best period of their love and courtship. He in his poem The Convergence of Twain denounces the love that is due to power and material possession, which leads to nothing but waste of human efforts, energy and technological advancements.
Hardy’s style and poetic technique was different from his Victorian contemporaries. He was quite modern in this sense. Hardy’s poems are known for idiosyncrasy of style-strangeness in terms of diction, syntax and movement. He credits this to his architectural apprenticeship where he learnt the Gothic art principle. He mentions it in his autobiography:
He knew that in architecture cunning irregularity is of enormous worth, and it is obvious thathe carried on into his verse, perhaps in part unconsciously, the Gothic art-principle in whichhe had been trained – the principle of spontaneity, found in mouldings, tracery, and such like– resulting in the ‘unforeseen’ (as it has been called) character of his metres and stanzas, thatof stress rather than syllable, poetic texture rather than poetic veneer; the latter kind of thing,under the name of ‘constructed ornament’, being what he, in common with every Gothicstudent, had been taught to avoid as the plague.
Hardy’s language is shaped by his historical awareness. He used the Dorset dialect and archaic diction in his poems because he was sensitive about his origins. His versification is more varied than many other poets. He has experimented in metrical forms and employed a wide variety of meter and stanza forms.
The second chapter of this thesis pertains to Hardy’s central philosophy expressed throughout his poems which he manifests as evolutionary meliorism. There is a strong opinion of critics and readers who label his work as inherently pessimistic and he having a bleak view of life. His own confessions in his autobiography reveal a different opinion altogether. Even in the preface of Apology he reiterates the growing need of confronting the bitter and cruel facts of life with sincerity. One of the most important reasons behind this paradox is Hardy’s irony. The art of disguising is temperamental to Hardy which is apparent in his life as well as in his creative works. His poetic writings are explicit examples of his irony. In one of his poems He Resolves to Say No More he writes,
Yea, none shall gather what I hide!
What I discern I will not say;
What I have learnt no man shall know;
I’ll let all be and show no man what I see.
His irony is the result of his pretended objectivity. Like Arnold he believed that the real function of poetry is the application of ideas to life. In the best of his poems he presents hope not as a direct statement, or a prophesy or through some philosophical argument or assertion but through articulate compassion. Hardy always expressed his affiliation with the theory of evolution. He first read Darwin’s Origin of Species when he was in his twenties. His observation in his notebook after a visit to Leslie Stephen further affirms it. He records: “all things merge in to one another good in to evil … the year in to the ages, the world in to the universe. With this in view, the evolution of species seems but a minute and obvious process in the same movement”. (Qtd. in Allingham 1)
The poems written after 1900 are distinctly melioristic. This chapter also revolves around the humanistic streak found in many of his poems. His compassion towards the entire humanity including the animal world remains the touchstone of his poetry. The study traces his poetic development in three phases. The first phase was marked by pessimism which emanates from the man’s heightened sensibilities and the indifference of the mighty forces of god, nature and divinity resulting in to contrast and conflict between human aspirations and unjust treatment of it. The second phase is the awakening of human consciousness which is credited to the human evolution. This is obtained by two sources; impulses from the consciousness and the sense stimuli. As the human consciousness encompasses in human beings the unconscious will also, itbecomes aware of it and gains consciousness. Hardy took this idea from Hartmann and later expanded his view that human consciousness is a part of the larger will and as the human consciousness awakens the will also starts awakening itself. In the third phase, Hardy particularly highlights the altruism and compassion which are vital for the awakening of human soul. In many poems he presents a compassionate view of the world manifesting the beauty and glory even amidst the ugliness. The self affirmative vision of Hardy stresses on recognizing the limitations of the world to achieve a realistic sense of human possibilities. His poems are in many ways the celebration and affirmation of life. The essential humanity is the striking note in his poems. His war poems triumphantly boast of it. Rather than abhorring the war directly he evokes the pathetic pictures of crushed humanity underneath it. Hardy also derives existential influence to establish man’s harmony with the society and the fellow human beings.
The third chapter signifies Hardy’s religious faith which moulds and converts in to different forms. His formative years are marked and echoed by strong religious sentiment which is credited to his upbringing in a devout Christian family. The study records his love for morning and evening prayer, reading of the Psalms, theological discussions with his friend and the marking of his favorite passages in the Bible explicitly reminiscent of his fascination for the High Anglicanism. It also captures the influence of evangelism and its basic tenets. His emphasis on the evangelical Christian belief also gets reflected in his belief of the concept of original sin of man and consequently the need for salvation. Apart from it he laid stress on the church reforms and the personal faith taking a stand against the orthodox sacraments which make him a true evangelical. Hardy’s faith was shaken by influence of Darwin, Mill and Spencer in his adulthood. In many poems Hardy denied his faith and labeled God as an external personality, completely indifferent and ruthless towards human beings nonetheless his rational idealism found a justification by his amalgamation of religion with rationality. Poetry plays a vital role in this union of religion with rationality. Hardy’s poems are remarkable for poignantly presenting his sentimental attachment and intellectual distancing of church ideals. His poems record his yearning for the faith which he had lost. The absence of faith filled his life with void and remorse. Therefore he reconciles his faith and finds solace in it. Hardy though never advocated the orthodox sacraments. His focus in the later life shifted more on altruism and compassion which are the fundamental principles of Christianity. In his opinion there is a greater need to understand religion in its broad horizon rather than limiting it to the rituals which are significant in the contemporary world as well.
Hardy’s aesthetic sensibilities are another dimension in his poetic output. This is explained in chapter 4 of the book. His aestheticism finds philosophic expression in the doctrine of will and representation. Aesthetic mode of perception leads to more tranquil state of mind originated from the world of ideas. People who dwell in the world of will incessantly suffer from the inner turmoil as the world of desire has no endings. The objectification of will, less individuated state of mind, constantly staying aloof from earthly concerns and an inclination towards aesthetic enjoyment provides an escape from the sufferings. Hardy’s emphasis on the fine arts like music, architecture, sculpture, painting and poetry are the finest specimen of his aesthetic philosophy. Throughout his poetry one can find the prominent place of fine arts. The study minutely observes his interest towards the sister arts. Hardy’s childhood was steeped in a musical environment. Apart from his family’s musical affinities the references in his various notebooks suggest his passionate lingering towards musical instruments and the love of church music. As a young man, he developed a profound interest in the concerts of Verdi, Bellini and Rossini. Music always loomed large in his verses. Sometimes it evoked community sentiments; at others it heightened the expression of human joys and sorrows in a poignant manner. Folk music was also reinvented and redefined by Thomas Hardy. Hardy’s fascination towards the visual arts was also immense. Especially Victorian narrative paintings find prominent expression in his works. He projected the inner state through landscapes and canvasses. The minute details of beauty of the landscape clearly reflect the eyes of a painter. The impact of the painters like Crivelli and Bellini was very deep on him. He learnt from them the art of intensifying the expression of things so that the heart and inner meaning is made vivid and clear. The gothic flavor, expressiveness and depiction of inner through external is also credited to them.
Thomas Hardy’s affiliation with architecture is also studied and analyzed in the context of his poetry. The art of architecture was in his blood. His father was a master mason and a builder. He himself was apprenticed to be an architect and was the disciple of Sir Arthur Bloomfield. He abandoned his profession only to be propagated by love of poetry. His architectural skill was not only confined to buildings but it also manifests his vision of life quite loudly. Hardy was always attached to the past memories and historic associations. While taking a stand between reparation and restoration he preferred the former one as restoration fades the connection of the past and the beauty of association which grieves him the most. His love for the gothic style and the nostalgia for the past get reflected in his love for the art of architecture.
Hardy was an avowed devotee of the muse of sculpture. He visited Elgin marble and the sculpture there always fired his imagination. There are poems like Rome the Vatican Sala Delle Muse, The British Museum which affirm his zest for sculpture. Infact Hardy was the votary of the entire sister arts and gave them expression in his verses.
The fifth chapter of the study elucidates Hardy’s epistemological views. Hardy had a keen sense of perception. Perception is the universally acknowledged link between the human mind and the external world where mind plays an active role and the external world is manifested from the perceptions of human mind. After delineating the theories of perception in various schools of philosophies the study establishes Hardy’s close affinities with the philosophy of Hume who distinguishes ideas and impressions and perceives the world in the form of impressions. Hardy by using the powerful medium of poetry records impressions by storing memories as sense impressions. Hardy certainly believes in the active powers of mind. The external beauty of the scene depends on the mind of the perceivers. Hardy’s views related to beauty are worth considering in this regard. According to him beauty is not only confined to beautiful things butit is also apparent in the ugly and the common place. It is the human association which signifies the real beauty. Hardy’s philosophy is also indebted and inspired by the philosophy of Schopenhauer who perceived the world in two forms. The world of will and the world of ideas. The world of will is the world in which we inhabit. The world of ideas is composed of concepts and percepts. An individual is the manifestation of the will whose will is manifested in this world. The world of ideas is primarily made of perceptions which shape the world of our representations. Hardy in his poetry dealt with the perceptions which left an indelible impression in his life throughout.
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Harvey, George. The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy. Routledge, 2003.
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Thomas Hardy Reappraised: Essays in Honour of Michael Millgate. Edited by Wilson
Keith, Univ.of Toronto press: 2006.
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Turner, Paul. The Life of Thomas Hardy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2001.
To study human life in all its manifestations is the chief occupation of Hardy as a poet. John Donne has aptlyremarked, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” -John Donne (Qtd.in Das19)
Hardy beautifully explains the incongruities, contrasts, conflicts and discrepancies of human life. Not only this, his palpable humanity asserts itself in the simple joys and common events that occur in this mortal world. In a nutshell, human being is a common denominator in his poems.
In this chapter, an attempt is being made to understand and explain Thomas Hardy’s philosophy in his poetic works. Hardy’s poetic work spans over three decades and his philosophy has evolved during this period from ‘pessimism’ in the early stages of his poetic journey through ‘awakening of consciousness’ in the mid-stage to ‘altruism and loving kindness’ in the later stages. All the three phases with distinct influences in every phase have been discussed in detail. A unique or characteristic feature that is pervasive in all the above stages is ‘humanism’ that can be discerned in his poems.
The chapter begins with defining humanism and through poetic evidences arguments have been presented in favour of Hardy as a humanist. Further, the concept of evolutionary meliorism is introduced by defining and explaining the term. It has been contrasted with pessimism and arguments presented to highlight how Hardy’s common perception of a ‘pessimist’ is out of place. Arguments in favour of him being a ‘meliorist’ has been provided and supplemented with poetic evidence.
The influence of great philosophers like Darwin, Schopenhauer, and von Hartmann as reflected in his poetic contribution is also discussed in the chapter.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Hardy as reflected in his works is his humanitarian vision. Hardy’s humanitarian values of compassion are not limited to humans alone but extend to animals and birds as well. Poems in support of above with explanation and arguments are discussed. Another aspect of humanitarian vision is amelioration of moral and social order. Relevant poems with argument have been presented. Accepting the human limitation is yet another characteristic of humanitarian view of Hardy that forms a part of the text in this chapter supported by relevant poems and arguments.
Optimism is yet another characteristic of humanitarian vision. Shades of optimism pervade numerous poems of Hardy. Two types of optimism i.e. heroic and docile have been discussed in the light of Hardy’s humanitarian vision. Hardy has laid a lot of emphasis on basic human values which is characteristic of humanistic philosophy that has been discussed at length in the chapter.
Hardy depicts glimpses of Existential philosophy in his war poems work, which actually are indicative of humanitarian and therefore humanistic philosophy. Many of his war poems reflect existential philosophywhere humanitarian values are prominent that finally confirms the proposition that Hardy was a true humanist.
The chapter thus concludes with war poems highlighting last of the humanitarian aspects of Hardy supporting humanistic philosophy and the argument that he was an evolutionary meliorist.
A sight for the finer qualities of existence, an eye for the still sad music of humanity is not to be acquired by the outer senses alone. These aspects of life require a mental tactility that comes from a sympathetic appreciation of life in all its manifestations. (Qtd.in Orel 134)
To appreciate the humanistic perspective in Hardy’s poems, it would be pertinent to define humanism in general and understand its manifold aspects. Any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values and dignity predominates is called humanism. In philosophical terms, it is a variety of ethical theory and practice that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in god. Humanism is a philosophy of compassion. It emphasizes on meeting human needs and answering human problems for both the individual and society. It is a philosophy for those who are in love with life. Humanists pre-eminently believe that man is a part of nature and has emerged as a result of continuous progress.
Literature has a very close connection with humanism. It always touches human lives. It is the reflection of human emotions and passions. In the famous phrase of Terence ‘the natural sympathy of man with man serves further to declare the natural sphere of man’s most natural art, the art of literature’. It studies human mind and has a supreme concern for the essential emotions which reside in human heart. Modern humanist thinkers and writers had an enormous impact in the last century. Some of the key figures include A J Ayer, Harold Blackham, Fenner Brockway, Joseph Conrad, E M Forster, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Hardy, Julian Huxley, Margaret Knight, G E Moore, Jawaharlal Nehru, M N Roy, Brock Chisholm, Peter Ritchie Calder and John Boyd Orr.
Thomas Hardy was primarily a humanist. His poetry deals with individual and their complex relationship with god, nature, society and his fellow beings. In his philosophic verses like Hap, humanity shines. Human existence in its totality has been interpreted in his poetic volumes. The quote of Miguel de Unameno, an existential thinker affirms it:
Philosophy is a product of the humanity of each philosopher, and each philosopher is a man of flesh and bone like himself … He philosophizes not with the reason only, but with the will, with the feelings, with the flesh and with the bones, but with the whole soul and with the whole body.(Qtd.in Macquarie 15)
In order to understand the core strength of his philosophy it would be appropriate to acquaint with the concept of ‘evolutionary meliorism’ in which humanistic perspective finds a prominent expression. Evolution stands for man’s continual rise through the cumulative effect of the small progression towards his present condition. It is a process of adaptation for further improvement. Meliorism is a hope which relies upon human actions and deeds. It emphasizes that the world can lead towards betterment and human happiness through human efforts. Human consciousness plays a vital role in the human progress. Meliorism, in general, is a view “that the world is neither completely evil, nor completely good but that relative amount of good and evil is changeable, nor that good is capable of increase” (Runes 1959). It can also be defined as “the compromise between optimism and pessimism which affirms that the world may be made better by rightly directed human effort.”
A meliorist is neither an extreme optimist nor an extreme pessimist in attitude. The basic tenet of meliorism is “to improve the world through sympathetic balance of optimism and pessimism, love and loathing, happiness and pain.” Hardy’s poems are generally supposed to be the pessimistic ones. He is claimed to be a poet who presents the dark view of life. J. Middleton Murray asserts that “Hardy is a great poet, uttering the cry of the universe.” (Qtd.in Patil 87)Critics have diverse opinion regarding his approach to life which is supported by Hardy himself. He never denied that the bleak view of life did persist in his poems. At the same time his labeling as a pessimist, irks and annoys him the most. Hardy defended himself in the apology to the volume Late Lyricsand Earlier. Hardy observed nearly a hundred years ago that,
The soul has her eternal rights; that she will not be darkened by statutes, nor lullabied by the music of bells. Pessimism, in truth, is only a kind of ‘questioning’ in the exploration of reality, and is the first step towards the betterment of soul, and the body. If there is a way to the better, it demands a full look at the worst: That is to say, by the exploration of reality, and its frank recognition stage by stage is briefly what evolutionary meliorism is” (Qtd.in Walbank106)
Hardy’s pessimism is corrective. Its defining feature remains in providing the solution to the maladies of human life rather than shutting the eyes from the harsh realities. In this regard he opines that:
As to pessimism, my motto is first correctly diagnosing the complaint – in this case human ills and ascertains the cause: then set about finding a remedy if one exists. The motto or practice of the optimists is: Blind the eyes to the real malady, and use empirical panaceas to suppress the symptoms.
According to him joys and sorrows are intermittingly woven in human life. To present only one side of the picture was not his concern. He believed that a poet’s duty is to present truth in its manifold forms. He strongly opposed the optimists. In his view, they blind their eyes to the real malady by accepting that all is well. Picking up a reference to Browning in an article on ‘Form and Poetry’ which Goose had taken in Wessex poems as his text, Hardy exclaimed and drew a specific contrast between Browning’s outlook and his own:
“Imagine you have to walk (a) chalk line across an open down. Browning walked it no more but a yard to the left of the same line the down is cut by a vertical cliff five hundred feet deep. I know it is there, but walk the line just the same.” (Qtd. in Millgate 409)
Hardy here differentiates between Browning’s attitude and his own regarding optimism. According to him Browning adhered to blind optimism considering that all is well in this universe. Hardy also opted the same path.The only difference was that Hardy was more aware and sensitive to the discrepancies and ironies of human life. He underlined that it would be inappropriate to ignore the hurdles in life and adopt an all encompassing optimism.
His views are best reflected in his conversation with William Archer in 1904 in which he reflects:
I believe, indeed that a good deal of robustious, swaggering optimism of recent literature is at bottom cowardly and insincere ….my pessimism, if pessimism it be, does not involve the assumption that the world is going to the dogs…on the contrary, my practical philosophy is distinctly meliorist. What are my books but one long plea against ‘man’s inhumanity to man’- and to women-and to the lower animals? Whatever may be the inherent good or evil of life, it is certain that men make it much worse than it need be. (Ray 18)
Lascelles Abercrombie’s opinion regarding Hardy’s pessimism is worth noticing. He states:
If by pessimism is meant the depiction of a mere brutal trampling of helpless man under the feet of the gods, but be judged honorably guilty if the charge be one of that nobler pessimism that brings out from the canvas the element of conflict, no matter how hopeless the odds and how ghastly the struggle. (Qtd. in Mcgarth29).
His pessimism is nothing but a sordid expression of the miseries and despairs of human beings owing to his relations with universe, pitfalls of advancement, illusion of independent will and incongruities of human life. Edmond Blunden strongly denies the charges over him being a pessimist. He tells that to speak of him as a pessimistic writer would be misleading. If one were a real pessimist one would hardly think it worthwhile to draw, sketch, paint or write books. The very existence of a hope to write is in itself an act of faith or optimism.
D’Exideuil aptly remarks in this context: “Hardy’s pessimism is, in virtue of this atmosphere, much more an eradicator of illusion than an infectious prompting to despair.” (Exideuil 55)
Prof. J. O. Bailey has attempted to draw light on Hardy’s poetic development and his philosophy. Bailey has marked three phases of his poetic vision. The first phase from 1862 to 1882 marks the influence of great philosophers like Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and Mill. At that time his viewpoint was that the insensate nature rules the world. This phase is marked by the exploration of reality which lies in the acceptance of darkened view of life. The second phase starts from 1882 and continues up to 1928. At that time, he was reading the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Hartmann. He therefore had formed an opinion that the vital guiding force which animates the lives of living and nonliving beings is theUnconscious. Only human beings can bring this unconscious in to consciousness through evolution. This phase of the awakening of human consciousness is possible only if man relies upon himself.The third and final phase emphasizes on evolution and man’s adaptation to his biological environment. The forces of nature are indifferent to human beings and most significantly man must be guided by religion whose major focus is on altruism and ethics.The world can be made better by spreading compassion and developing empathy for all creatures. This is the path of evolutionary meliorism which Hardy, the poet ultimately wants to prevail. Hardy has reflected Nietzsche’s opinion about non-existence of god in his novels as well. Without qualifying as malevolent or benevolent Hardy conceives the universe as simply indifferent. He equates humans with other living creatures and earth with a speck in the whole universe. He also treats human existence as very brief and transitory.
For some men, such a belief would lead to cynicism and sterility. For Hardy, it leads to pity for his fellow human beings, interested in the natural world, and love of being alive. Life for us is its own justification. F. B. Pinion justly declares him as a meliorist by stating that:
Hardy is a meliorist. The immanent will was not percipient, but percipience was to be found in humanity; and Hardy crusted that it would spread and gradually inform the general will ‘till it fashions all things fair’for this reason he regarded himself as a ‘meliorist’ and not a pessimist. It is important to remember that the poems written after 1900 are distinctly melioristic. (Qtd.in Kundu 333)
The present study investigates the human aspect which is explicit in these three phases. The best of his philosophical poems deal with human beings as their leitmotif. In the early poems of Hardy the chief concern lies on human predicament. His philosophical ideas have developed not in plain statement or debate but in a human context in which moral and dramatic confrontation takes place. The confrontation and growing tension between human and inhuman, personal and impersonal, concrete and abstract, feeling and thought are the major issues of his poems. What gives them vitality is the poet’s emotional response to the aspects of human experience. It is his passionate plea in support of his fellow beings whose fate is marred by evil forces that make his poems typically humane. He affirms this in a note written in 1896 as follows:
To cry out in a passionate poem that the supreme mover or movers, the prime force or forces must be either limited in power, unknowing or cruel which is obvious enough, and has been for centuries - will cause them merely a shake of the head: but to put it in argumentative prose will make them sneer or foam and set all the literary contortionists cross literacy they seem to think the same thing. (Morgan 226)
The poetic emotion is thus created by the human suffering in the hands of God, doom, nature, time and chance whose indifference and blindness towards the pathetic conditions of man makes the subtle statement in his poetry. Hardy believed that man’s relationship with this universe had a certain range of contrast and conflict. Man’s emotional sensibilities owing to the forces of the evolution have reached to that extent where nature is unable to fulfill it. Hardy himself mentioned:
It is a woeful fact that the human race is too extremely developed for its corporeal conditions, the nerves being evolved to an activity abnormal in such an environment. Even the higher animals are in excess in this respect. It may be questioned if nature, or what we call nature, so far back as when she crossed the line from invertebrates to vertebrates, did not exceed her mission. This planet does not supply the materials for happiness to higher existences. (Qtd. in Persoon 111)
However, there seems to be irony between man’s relations with the universe. The irony is due to determinismversus individual free will. Determinism is caused by the discoveries of modern science and individual free will becomes mere human illusion as it is accentuated by indifference of the laws of nature. Man’s sensitivity and ambition are crumbled by the laws of nature that act as malignant forces. Human being is destined to suffer and this suffering is beyond his control. There are several philosophical poems which evoke this emotion of suffering. In order to illustrate the above point it would be appropriate to study Hardy’s poem ‘Drinking song’ which emphatically asserts that science has evaded man’s ability to ponder about great thoughts. The scientific discoveries from Copernicus to Einstein have made it impossible to believe that ‘everything was made for men’. The poem ends on the following note:
So here we are, in piteous case:
Of many dyes
Upon an Alpine glacier’s face:
To fly and cower
In some warm bower
Our chief concern in such a place.
Fill full your cups: feel no distress
At all our great thoughts shrinking less:
We’ll do a good deal nevertheless. (Hardy 864)
The contrast in the setting - warm bowers on a glacier’s face, the butterflies, and fragile summer creatures all paint the vulnerability of human condition. The poem has made this point explicitly that Men, the highly sensitive creature are placed in a threatening environment. However the poem at the same time also underlines the hope that with human efforts alone it is possible to make this life worth living.
In another poem The Jubilee of a magazine the poet after speaking at great length about the advancement of technology expresses its futility. The verse is presented below:
But if we ask, what has been done
To unify the mortal lot
Since your bright leaves first saw the sun,
Beyond mechanic furtherance –what
Advance can rightness, candour, claim?
Truth bends abashed, and answers not.
Despite your volume’s gentle aim
To straighten visions wry and wrong,
Events jar onward much the same! (Hardy 386)
Ever since the beginning of civilization, there has been tremendous scientific and technological advancement. However, it has not been able to unite the mortal. They remain as divided as they were. Despite the progress and advancement of science, there are many questions that remain unanswered. There are many naked truths thatstill lurk at humans far and wide. This further highlights the irony of man’s relations with the universe.
There are other poems in which he depicts the cruel indifference of god towards human beings. Hap is one such poem in which the conflict is created in the mind of the protagonist. It is in fact a deeply felt cry of a sensitive, tormented and dignified individual representing the cruel fate of mankind whose desires are crumbled by the vengeful god. In utter anguish and pain the protagonist speaks:
If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky and laugh: thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting.
In the above poem, god has been painted as a hostile force towards humans. God is mocking at the humans and making fun of them by deriving pleasure in their suffering. It also highlights the helplessness of humans under the malignant force of god. Loss of love in human relationships is god’s gain in hatred. Thus humans are found to be helpless in the hands of the mighty forces and this helplessness is further accentuated in the following lines:
How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown
Cross causality obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing time for gladness casts a moan …
These purblind doomsters had as readily strewn
Bliss’s about my pilgrimage as pain. (Hardy7)
The protagonist is perplexed to see his fateful misery. He finds himself in a world where his aspirations, hopes, joys are totally shattered in the hands of god. The forces like purblind doomsters and cross causality always obstruct the path of human happiness and hope which finds a poignant expression in the outcry of protest. Legouis and Cazamian state that his poems show us his “manifold consciousness of human misery, the moving and metaphysical realization of an unknown god and an impassive universe, and abhorrence of war”. This quality is shown in a short poem called Christmas: 1924:
Peace upon earth! Was said.
We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We’ve got as far as poison gas. (Hardy 872)
The above poem expresses Hardy’s disgust for war and destruction caused by it. The irony of mankind lies in the fact that despite the religious message for peace on earth the fate of humanity is still doomed by the havoc of war. In this short poem Hardy’s gloom and frustration for the Second World War is expressed.
The Sleep Worker reflects nature’s blindness in the form of passionate cry of human sufferer to the cause of his suffering:-
When wilt thou wake, o mother, wake and see,
As one who held in trance, has labored long
By vacant rote and prepossession strong
The coils that thou has wrought unwittingly (Hardy110)
Hardy here addresses mother earth that is in a state of slumber and questions her neglect and apathy to the sufferings of her offspring. The strength to the poem lies in the personal cry from an individual who has deeply experienced the effect of nature’s faulty workmanship.
At a Bridal once again deals with nature’s indifference towards human beings. In a question to Nature he highlights the purposelessness and indifference towards its creations.
Should I too wed as slave to Mode’s decree?
And each thus found apart, of false desires,
A stolid line whom no high aims will fire
As had fired ours could ever have mingled us. (Hardy8)
According to Hardy humans are mere puppets in the hands of Nature. Nature has been portrayed here as insensitive towards the aspirations and high ambitions of humans.
In many of his poems Hardy expresses the idea of man’s confrontation with the impersonal forces. In the poem of 1867 Heiress and Architect the laws of nature block every way towards human happiness. Nature’s Questioning too deals with the similar theme. The mindless mechanism of god thwarts the human existence. The human sufferer in an anguished manner reveals the blind scheming of cosmic forces. He passionately utters:
Has some vast imbecility
Mighty to build and blend,
But impotent to tend,
Framed us in Jest, and left us now to hazardry?
The might of nature in creating this universe but at the same time being indifferent towards the fate of mankind propels the speaker to express his anguish for it. The worst is that despite the passionate plea the speaker hardly gets any answer.
In order to find a solution to the gloom, despair and suffering, Hardy adopts the path of evolutionary meliorism. According to H.C.Webster, though Hardy brought out the negatives of the cosmic forces lucidly in the first phase of his poetry, he would not be content only in highlighting of the problems. He would definitely wish to find some positive solution and just not leave the problems unsolved. Hardy would eventually do it in order to ameliorate things. One such way of amelioration is developing tragic sensibility and tragic wisdom both of which are deeply rooted in Hardy’s poetry. He believed in the assumption of R.W. Emerson who insisted that “we must look unflinchingly in to the House of Pain. Otherwise we have seen but half of the universe”. His tragic poetry gains vitality when the personal sorrow is absorbed in to a universal form of suffering. The tragic lot is destined not for an individual but for the humanity in general. Hardy determined two forms of tragedy; the pain of tragedy is felt in a chronological period of time, and sense of tragedy is the contemplation of the past. A tragic writer always goes beyond the pain of tragedy and achieves a sense of tragedy by transmuting it from personal to the universal. In this context, Samuel Hynes makes a judicious remark: “I have tried to show that Hardy’s poetry at its best is not poetry of revolt and irony but a poetry of human dignity and tragic acquiescence which transcends the pain of tragedy in the sense of tragedy”.
It is important to glance at B eyond the Lost Lamp. The lovers in this poem are raised to the stature of impersonal or representative humans. A particular experience becomes the symbol of essential experience. The poem brings out many significant features. First, there is a fusion of inner and outer world. External settings like bad weather, evenings evoke feelings that tragedy is about to fall on the lovers as well as human beings in general. Inner world is represented by the gloom on their faces which is representative of human misery again. The verses are presented below:
While rain, with eve in partnership,
Descended darkly, drip, drip, drip,
Beyond the last lone lamp I passed
Walking slowly whispering sadly,
Two linked loiterers, wan downcast:
Some heavy thought constrained each face,
And blinded them to time and place. (Hardy296)
Secondly Hardy found a sense of companionship which is rooted in mankind even amidst the sufferings. The place represents a tragic atmosphere where the night is weird and wet and the lovers are reluctant to part. They sadly cling to each moment of their togetherness from evening to much beyond the night fall. Further,
When I retort that watery way
Some hours beyond the droop of day,
Still I found pacing there the twain
Just as slowly, just as sadly
Heedless of the night and rain.(296)
There is also a metaphysical loneliness which reflects a universal feeling. The final stanza clearly suggests that the tragedy is not confined only to the two lovers but it has also gripped the entire humankind. Further,
Wither? Who knows, indeed … and yet?
To me, when nights are weird and wet,
Without these comrades there at tryst
Creeping slowly, creeping sadly,
That lone lane does not exist
There they seem brooding on their pain
And will, while such a lone remains.
Hardy’s contemplation is confined not only to the tragedy of two lovers but it acts as a symbol of the human companionship. Weird nights, creeping slowly, creeping sadly, and lone lane symbolize hardships characteristic of suffering. The lovers not parting under extreme conditions symbolize inherent human nature of seeking companionship. Hence a particular experience becomes a comprehensive experience for Hardy as he does not limit the characterization of the lovers as sole individuals but symbolizes them as representatives of humankind. Thus, Hardy displays tremendous tragic wisdom by transmuting personal experience in to universal experience. Hardy’s genius in capturing deep experiences has been rightly appreciated by John Middleton Murray who in one of the earliest essays on Hardy’s poetry felt: “a given poem is not the record, but the culmination of an experience if which it is the culmination for longer and more profound than the one which it seems to record.”(Murray 52)
Hardy finds similarity with another brilliant poet William Wordsworth who acknowledges the presence of suffering but portrays it with rich harmony of music through which humanity is brought together. The poem Drummer Hodge approves it.
Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge forever be;
His homely northern breast and brain
Grow to some southern tree,
And strange eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.(Hardy83)
The essence of the tragedy of Drummer Hodge lies in its universality. The poem underlines man’s loneliness in the cosmic setting. His isolation is symbolized by the stars of the southern hemisphere. Hodge is a representative name for the members of the agricultural class but as a matter of fact it represents the mankind and its isolation in the universe as presented in the verses above.
In the poem A Broken Appointment the speaker becomes a representative of man and represents his suffering as presented in the following verses:
You did not come,
And marching time drew on, and wore me numb …
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure loving kindness sake
Grieved I, when as the hope-hour stroked its sum
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it.But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me? (Hardy124)
From its title the above poem appears to be a simple love poem but a closer look at it reveals deep experience from particular to the universal. The poem deals with some fundamental concepts of love, loyalty, compassion and loving kindness. It begins with dejection of a lover who is left heart broken in a relationship as he waits for her beloved hopelessly. This leads him in to a reflective mood where he ponders regarding love, pure love and loyalty. He analyzes that for humans it is important that love be pure and reciprocal. He realizes that it is compassion which makes human relations worthwhile and only pure love is loyal for life. Thus, he is able to transmute his personal experience to the universal experience. That is where the beauty of the poem lies. David Cecil’s remarks here are worth noticing: “Hardy regards it in his most fundamental aspect. He sees human beings less as individuals than as representatives of a species, and in relation to the ultimate conditioning forces of their existence…his theme is mankind’s predicament in this universe.” (Qtd. in Kundu 260)
The process of universalization is also visible in Neutral tones where once again a generalization is arrived through personal experience. The personal grief is no more personal. It takes the universal form as the poem reaches to culmination as can be seen in the following verses:
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face and the god-curst sun, and a tree
And a pond edged with grayish leaves. (Hardy 9)
The protagonist is transmuting his personal experience to the universal. He is heartbroken and realizes that love is deceiving in nature. His personal pain is being reduced by transferring it to the universal nature of love being deceitful. The personal suffering is further reduced by projecting it to the abstract universal objects like Sun, Tree and Pond.
Long aptly comments about the nature of Hardy’s poetry: “This is the chief thing: Be not perturbed, for all things are according to the nature of the universal”. (Long 232)
Thus one finds universal anguish to be predominant in Hardy’s poetry.
The next stage in the process of evolutionary meliorism is transcending of humankind from collective unconscious to collective consciousness. There are ample glimpses of such transcendence in Hardy’s poetry written during the second phase from 1882 to 1928. Hardy was tremendously influenced by two great philosophers of his time Schopenhauer and von Hartmann. Schopenhauer in his book, The World of Will and Ideas propounded that the force which guides the lives of living and nonliving beings is ‘will’. This ‘will’ operate in a selfish way. Von Hartmann was much in tune with Schopenhauer. He named this ‘will’ as an unconscious mental energy. He also enunciated that man owing to evolution has the power to move from the unconscious to self-realization. This consciousness can be obtained by two sources; impulses from the consciousness and sense stimuli. Sense stimuli here represent the freedom of human will which reflects upon sensations or observed facts and the basis to oppose impulses from the unconscious. Hartmann believes that as this consciousness develops in more and more living beings it will prevail throughout the universe and the ‘unconscious will’ may subsequently become ‘conscious’. This reflects transcendence from collective unconscious to collective consciousness.Hardy seems to have taken this idea to form his philosophy. In a conversation with William Archer in 1901, Hardy said that von Hartmann’s book suggested to him “that there may be a consciousness, infinitely far off, at the other end of the chain of phenomenon, always baffled and blundering”. In 1907, Hardy wrote a letter to Edward Wright:
That the unconscious will of the universe is growing aware of it. I believe I may claim as my own idea solely - at which I arrived by reflecting that what has already taken place in a fraction of the whole (i.e. so much of the world has become conscious) is likely to take place in the mass - that is the universe - the whole will becomes conscious thereby: and ultimately it is to be hoped sympathetic. (Hardy, Florence and Thomas Hardy 345)
Hardy on May 19, 1881 recorded in his journal: “Emotions have no place in this world of defect and it is a cruel injustice that they should have developed in it. If law itself had consciousness, how the aspects of its creatures would terrify it, fill it with remorse!” (Qtd.in O Neil and Callaghan 27)The word emotion here is implied for human consciousness which Hardy always associated with ability to feel and suffer as well as the moral consciousness. It also denotes the ability to probe the suffering of oneself and others as well as the imagination of creating a better world. Prof. H.C. Webster believes that for Hardy, human consciousness is a part of the larger will.He states that:
The universe is constantly in the process of change; hence the immanent will which is identical with the universe also changes. As a result of an almost infinite process of change, as an unconscious and undesired result of the immanent will’s dialect consciousness emerged in man. Through man’s conscious awareness, he can control and change those parts of the universe which are the products of his consciousness i.e. emotional parts of him. (Webster 195)
Probably this larger will is the collective consciousness. Hardy’s poem AgnostaiTheoi further supports it:
Perhaps thy ancient rote - restricted ways
Thy ripening rule transcends;
That listless effort tends
To grow percipient with advance of days,
And with percipience mends
For in unwonted purlieus, for and nigh,
At whiles or short or long,
May be discerned a wrong
Dying as of self slaughter; where am I
Would raise my voice in song.
Here Hardy gives paramount importance to the awakened consciousness that results in defiance of the cosmic scheme of things. Against the restricted ways of nature human being through consistent endeavor strives to break free from thetyranny of Will.
Human beings who have achieved consciousness may convert the unconscious will in to conscious will. In his poems Hardy presents man’s ability to feel his related moral sense. In the poem Mother Nature, there is an overtone of evolved human consciousness. The cause of Mother’s mourning seems to be the raised human consciousness resulting in advancement. She mourns, “My children have aped mine own slaughters”. In Doom and she Mother Nature, the world weaver talks with doom, a symbol of process. The mother is blind ‘unlit with sight is she’, but the mother is beginning to become conscious, and she says:
Mother of all things made,
Matchless in artistry
Unlit with sight is she
And though her ever well-obeyed
Vacant of feeling he …
Me think I catch a groan
Or multitudinous moan,
As though I had schemed a world of strife,
Working by touch alone. (Hardy108)
The Mother Nature according to Hardy has construed a beautiful world which cannot be matched in artistry. Yet she is herself blind toward the suffering of its inhabitants. But slowly she is becoming aware of the collective suffering of humans. Her realization of this is the first step toward gaining consciousness. This has been possible only due to man’s raising voice against the tyrannies of cosmic forces of the universe.
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