Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thomas Hardy the Obscure

I first became aware of Thomas Hardy when our ninth-grade English teacher, Mr. D. P. Morris, assigned us Tess of the d’Urbervilles to read. I met Hardy again in twelfth-grade English when the same teacher assigned us The Return of the Native.

Just so you know, my tenth-grade English teacher was Mrs. Elinor Field, a modern to the core, who gave us The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit to study instead of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that all previous sophomore classes had dissected from time immemorial; and my eleventh-grade English teacher was Mrs. Jean Probst, a woman so plain in appearance and so bland in her presentations that she has become practically a non-entity in my otherwise impeccably-ordered mind. Mr. Morris did assign us Macbeth in the twelfth grade, but the lack of Julius Caesar damaged me for years.)

Only later did I become aware of other books by Thomas Hardy including Under the Greenwood Tree, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Jude the Obscure, but he is forever paired in my mind with another English novelist, George Eliot (pen name of Mary Anne Evans) who wrote Silas Marner. I don't know why. He just is. It probably has something to do with Mr. D. P. Morris.

Hardy also wrote many short stories and poems, but I have never read any of them. So my thanks to Yorkshire Pudding who posted the following poem of Hardy’s on his blog today:

The Oxen
by Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928)
(written in 1915 when he was 75)

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

(End of poem)

Here’s proof.


  1. Thank you for the link sir. In my humble opinion, Hardy's best novel was "Jude the Obscure" but while still in what you call high school, I was very moved by the poems he wrote in old age - especially the "Veteris vestigia flammae" group.

  2. I loved reading all these stories I wish today's youth would do so as well.
    Nothing like the old authors.