Spring 1960 • Vol. XXII No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1960 |

Thomas Hardy’s Poems, and the Religious Difficulties of a Naturalist

By the end of the second decade of our century we had become agitated over the beginnings of several fresh kinds of American verse; we had the feeling that some spectacular advance was about to be made in our native literature. But in one way or another we came upon certain short poems by Thomas Hardy, and we responded with exhilaration in that shock of recognition by which we assent to some bold new verse as being nevertheless within the canon of poetry; they moved many of us more deeply and longer than the pieces of our own nationals. Fresh as these little poems were, they were in an ancient grand manner which betokened a largeness of mind. We knew that the old Victorian novelist had turned to poetry, or perhaps we even knew that he had only returned to his first and favored Muse. But we could not have foreseen the valor or the ingenuity of his imagination. It was a metaphysical imagination, in the service of a theological passion. In verse he could indulge frankly in speculations

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