Imagine My Surprise…


  1. Joe H
    Joe H May 31, 2022 at 4:24 pm .

    Love those Hardy quotes! He was a favorite of James Wright, in whose work you can feel the influence. And Bob, yes … I’ve started JUDE a couple of times but never gotten far. I read somewhere the opposite take on your grad school experience—that he thought it his best book and when the critics hated it he abandoned fiction.

  2. Jonah G Bornstein
    Jonah G Bornstein May 31, 2022 at 11:35 am .

    There is also a Hardy poem with a somewhat similar idea embedded in it. “The Going” about the death of his first wife.
    Never to bid good-bye
    Or lip me the softest call,
    Or utter a wish for a word, while I
    Saw morning harden upon the wall,
    Unmoved, unknowing
    That your great going
    Had place that moment, and altered all.

    The phrase “saw morning harden upon the wall” will always astound me. Thanks for bringing this up.

  3. Chris Hoffman
    Chris Hoffman May 31, 2022 at 10:07 am .

    Fascinating discovery. Thanks for sharing it! Merwin’s poem is in my personal binder of “favorite poems of all time.” I also have this one by Hardy:
    Southampton Docks: October 1899

    Here, where Vespasian’s legions struck the sands,
    And Cendric with the Saxons entered in,
    And Henry’s army lept afloat to win
    Convincing triumphs over neighboring lands,

    Vaster battalions press for further strands,
    To argue in the selfsame bloody mode
    Which this late age of thought, and pact, and code,
    Still fails to mend.–Now deckward tramp the bands,

    Yellow as autumn leaves, alive as spring;
    And as each host draws out upon the sea
    Beyond which lies the tragical To-be,
    None dubious of the cause, none murmuring,

    Wives, sisters, parents, wave white hands and smile,
    As if they knew not that they weep the while.

    – Thomas Hardy

  4. Robert Cooperman
    Robert Cooperman May 31, 2022 at 9:19 am .

    An excellent post, as usual. Wait until you get to JUDE THE OBSCURE. Be in a good mood, because you’re going to need it. The grad school joke was that he wrote it to piss off everyone so he could concentrate just on his poetry.

  5. Joe H
    Joe H May 31, 2022 at 9:13 am .

    I’ve got a slew of those little sticky flags to mark quotes with, and so far Tess is bristling with them! He also does something I never associated with writers of that period. He has a lovely scene of people from Tess’s village working in the fields. He opens the scene in the narrative past tense, the base tense of the novel; but when he focuses on Tess, he shifts to the present tense, then returns to the narrative past after foregrounding her. A modernist in 1891! Of course, my surprise may spring from ignorance.

  6. Patricia Dubrava Keuning
    Patricia Dubrava Keuning May 31, 2022 at 8:50 am .

    Fine excerpt from Hardy, reminding me to add him to my rereading list. I also thought Merwin unique in that great poem of his, but surely he read Tess. It also reminds me of Vallejo’s famous poem. I may be paraphrasing: “I shall die in Paris, in the rain/on a day I already remember…”

  7. Karen Douglass
    Karen Douglass May 31, 2022 at 7:51 am .

    Good one, thanks for reminding me of Tess.

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