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A coda to last night’s excellent discussion

Neil Rathmell

‘No one wanted to publish his early poems,’ Claire Tomalin wrote in the introduction to her Poems of Thomas Hardy (Penguin Classics, 2006), ‘but he kept writing verse during the three decades in which he worked as a novelist, always considering himself primarily a poet.’

She describes him as ‘essentially a lyric poet, working a great deal in his head’, by which I suppose she means that his poems were short enough to be remembered without being written down. She reminds us ‘that he grew up hearing ballads sung by country people’ and that ‘by the time he was a schoolboy he was going out with his father and uncle to make music for weddings and parties around the local villages’. There is, she says, ‘always an element of song around what Philip Larkin called the little spinal cord of thought.’

So there you have it.  Thomas Hardy’s poems…

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