Saturday, 12 May 2012

Poem on Tess of the d'Ubervilles: Part 1

This is based on Thomas Hardy's book, so suited to poetry that I decided to write a poem on it, once and for all. Hardy couldn't afford to become a poet so he wrote novels. Only after he had achieved success as a novelist did he publish poems. Tess of the d'Urbervilles is much like a poem in the Romantic tradition. Rich in nature and imagery, ugly truths, rural realism, it is almost Wordsworthian. At the same time there is imagery and symbols, reminiscent of Keats. The sheer beauty and sensuousness of his prose was wasted: it was very poetic. Ironically Hardy's poems were simple, and lacked the long, lingering sensuousness of his prose. He was a poetic novelist and a prosaic poet. 

This is how I feel when I read Hardy.
A Gust of Wind by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
These image is taken from Philip Allingham at the Victorian Web.

Phase I: The Maiden

In Marlott dwelt the Durbeyfields,
Old villagers of barren ground
Rough-hewed, red-cheeked and earthen-bound,
Sun-drenched of limb, they toiled and wheeled
Their carts, brimmed full with honeyed hives.
And if you passed the tavern's road,
Old John would fill his parchèd throat,
Swelled thick with beer. He had a wife,
Joan was her name: a comely lass,
Their brood of children numbered eight.
Of all these souls the strings of fate
Would play on lily-footed Tess.
by JMW Turner

One evening while the sun burnt red,
When old John wheeled his barrow slow,
The parson hailed him. murm'ring low:
"Good eventide, Sir John," he said.
John turned round - "What mean'st thou by this,
When I be plain Jack Durbeyfield?
I hold no coat-of-arms or shield,
And haggle in the market-place."
"Your forebear was a noble knight,
Sir Pagan d'Urberville his name,
With William Conqueror he came,
From Normandy, of ancient might."
by John Constable

"Of manors they were well endowed,
A seat in King John's reign they gave.
And Charles the Second knighted brave
Soldiers, whose royal pledges vowed.
If only knighthoods ran to sons,
Like baronies, you'd be Sir John.
No other fam'ly's better born."
"Daze my eyes!" cried John, in a trance,
"But to be sure, we have a spoon,
We stir the soup for every meal,
'Tis silver, and a graven seal,
But what is left of our boon? / my fortunes?
by John Constable

"What lands have we? What estates high?" 
"Of county rank you now can claim
No more - it is a monstrous shame
How the mighty have fallen! Why,
It is dark, and I must return."
"Sir, stay awhile. Where do we lie?"
"In vaults, with countless effigies
On Kingsbere Hill. Good-night, my son."
He wended off, uneasily.
Exulting in his archaic pride,
John sent quick for a carriage ride,
And soon rested with the daisies.

And so ends Chapter 1. It's still very incomplete. I hope to finish it within a week for an online poetry competition. But anyway it has been pleasant writing these lines. (What with a busy course and numerous headaches.) 

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