Thomas Hardy: Behind the Mask [Explaining the Poems]

by Andrew Norman

Moments of Vision

HardyMoments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses was published by Macmillan in November 1917. Of this collection, “Logs on the Hearth” and “In the Garden” were poems written by Hardy in memory of his sister Mary. In other poems, such as “Joys of Memory” and “To My Father’s Violin,” he looks back nostalgically at the past, which to him always seems preferable to the present. Similarly, in “Great Things,” where Hardy admits to a love for ‘sweet cider,’ ‘the dance,’ and ‘love’ itself, he uses the past tense, as he ends with the words “Will always have been great things.”

The theme of Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses, said Hardy, was to ‘mortify the human sense of self-importance by showing or suggesting, that human beings are of no matter or appreciable value in this nonchalant universe.’ This, as will be seen, was only part of the story, for there are many poems in the collection which relate, inevitably and vicariously, as always, to Emma Gifford [Hardy’s first wife]. Had she been alive, she would undoubtedly have been just as offended by them as she had been with Jude the Obscure.

In 1920 publisher Vere H. Collins, during a series of discussions with Hardy at Max Gate, questioned the latter about one of his Moments of Vision poems, namely “The Interloper,” which he could not make sense of. It reads as follows:

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