Thomas Hardy #PoetryFriday

Note: Bear with me, dear reader. This post is about everything and nothing, darting about like a squirrel unable to make up its mind. If you know the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you’ll get my train of thought. There it is. I’m owning it!

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When my husband and I take a trip, I can’t resist the opportunity to do a bit of research. “A bit” is probably an understatement! I dive head-first into reading and learning everything I can about our chosen destination — local history, customs, and, of course, any literary connections. While it was Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures that inspired our upcoming trip to England’s Jurassic Coast, I couldn’t ignore the literary luminary from Dorset: Thomas Hardy.

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(photo credit: Encyclopedia Britannica)

I’ve adored Hardy novels for years. Who can resist Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd, or Jude the Obscure? It wasn’t until I began my sleuthing that I realized how much poetry Hardy had written. Hundreds of poems, in fact. How had I missed this? Hardy was a true Victorian, and his poetry is, well, brooding. You can read a bit about his life here. One poem, however, captured my imagination — The Roman Road.

 

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Photo © Christie Wyman, 2012

What I love about poetry is its openness to personal connection and interpretation. My connection to roman roads goes back to 2012, when I won a teacher fellowship to work on an archaeological dig at the Roman supply fort, Arbeia, near Hadrian’s Wall. When I wasn’t working on the dig site, I was off hiking along the wall, exploring it’s milecastles and forts, as well as nearby roman roads. Upon reading The Roman Road, I was instantly transported back to the summer when I was given the gift of a month to truly wonder and wander. As a child, Hardy’s imagination must have run wild as well, growing up around so much history.

The Roman Road

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmed legionaries, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmed legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother’s form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.

So there you have it. A little Thomas Hardy on this Poetry Friday.

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Diane at Random Noodling is graciously hosting this week’s Poetry Friday. Why not join us there and spread some poetry love!

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27 thoughts on “Thomas Hardy #PoetryFriday

  1. I enjoyed your wandering, and Thomas Hardy’s, too. Delightful contrast between soldiers and mother & child. Have you seen the movie version of Far From the Madding Crowd? (There’s probably more than one; I saw the recent one and liked it a lot.)

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  2. Here’s another Hardy poem that I think is absolutely perfect! Part of its perfection is it is short!

    PROUD SONGSTERS

    The thrushes sing as the sun is going
    And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
    And as it gets dark loud nightingales
    In bushes
    Pipe, as they can when April wears,
    As if all Time were theirs.

    These are brand new birds of twelve-months’ growing
    Which a year ago, or less than twain
    No finches were, nor nightingales,
    Nor thrushes,
    But only particles of grain,
    And earth, and air, and rain.

    Thanks for featuring Hardy today!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What wonderful adventures you’ve had, Christie. I envy you your time on those Roman roads, and to discover Hardy’s poetry is the plus, I guess. What a gorgeous picture!

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  4. I want to give you another cookie! What a lovely wondering and wandering experience you have had. And, I’m a bit jealous. I would love to wander Hadrians Wall. Alas, I”m stuck at “home” traveling in North America. It’s not so bad. But, I”ll always long to get “out” of my country and see another. Also, I did not know about Hardy as a poet. Thanks for the introduction.

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  5. Love this post! You took me back to college days of reading Hardy (no, I didn’t know about all his poetry either), as well as my years living in England (never made it to Dorset, though). Funny story — once we went on a car trip up to Newcastle, hoping to see some of Hadrian’s Wall, and after a wild goose chase, managed to find the site — where there were just a few rocks, maybe two feet’s worth. 😀 Love your photo — obviously you knew where to go!

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    1. Yes, the wall is a funny thing. I was lucky to see some lovely long stretches and a few with a rock pile to which you’d think, “That’s it?” Yes, I was blessed to be working with one of the lead archaeologists who was also an avid “rambler,” so he took us to a few key spots.

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  6. “What I love about poetry is its openness to personal connection and interpretation.” I love this observation, Christie, and how Hardy’s poem captures its truth. My British Lit professor was a Hardy scholar who focused on his poetry to the exclusion of the novels, so I’ve only read Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Now I feel like I should read the others. Coincidentally, I’ve shared a Hardy poem today, too. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a fabulous line, Christie: “What I love about poetry is its openness to personal connection and interpretation.” So true! Enjoyed the walk on the Roman Road the poem inspired and what it meant to you. Enjoy your summer travels and all the sleuthing connected with them!

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  8. Our holidays are usually very random. We don’t plan them out in much detail – just stop where we land and then find out what’s there to see and do… (And later find out all that we missed… :\ )

    Love the lilting rhythm of this Thomas Hardy poem.

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  9. Christie, you have captured the spirit of a wanderer and traveler in this post. I must admit to being a detective also when we travel. I love to stop at tourist centers to get a historical background of the area visited. It makes me feel part of the landscape with an eagerness to explore. As did some of the other responders, I love this line: “What I love about poetry is its openness to personal connection and interpretation.” The opening lines of Hardy’s poem also resonate with me as an amazing visual: The Roman Road runs straight and bare
    As the pale parting-line in hair
    Across the heath.

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  10. I’m glad I’m not the only one who plans travels based on literary connections. My daughter is studying in England next year for a semester, and we are planning to visit her for a week. I’m already trying to see how many literary pilgrimages we can squeeze into a short time. Hadrian’s Wall was not on my short list, but after reading this, I’m tempted!

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    1. Where will your daughter be? I’ve lived in the UK and travelled extensively there, so would be happy to make recommendations! A fun book to get your hands on is the Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to Great Britain & Ireland. I’m not sure if it’s in print, but you can get a used copy online or through interlibrary loan. It’s a MUST for planning literary pilgrimages! 🙂

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  11. Wow! A Thomas Hardy two-fer (between your post and Diane’s comment), and both lovely. So jealous of your archaeological fellowship! What fun (and learning)!

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  12. A little research ahead of time certainly enriches one’s travel, and so does reading a little Victorian poetry! I kind of wish I had done a bit more research before our trip to Corsica–must go look up some Corsican poetry now….

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    1. Many years ago, while in Switzerland with a friend, we took a very impromptu trip to Corsica. Gorgeous place! I didn’t have the opportunity to do any research, so I confess to missing a whole lot and not fully appreciating everything while there, especially the Napoleon-related bits. This site looks like it has some interesting info. Have a fun trip and don’t forget to slice when you return! — https://www.napoleon.org/en/magazine/itineraries/napoleon-and-corsica/

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