Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems

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violin

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Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.

 

She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.

 

Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

November

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I can’t believe we’re already in November. But a quick look through the window verifies that we are: the misty, murky greyness which blankets everything into damp anonymity and uncertainty is so typical of this month.

It always reminds me of a clever old poem I first encountered at school. When I was a teacher myself I often used it with classes, asking the kids to write their own version. When the weather was like this and the sun refused to break through, they were inspired to write some marvellous verse!

“November”
by Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–

No road–no street–
No “t’other side the way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–

No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!

No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No park–no ring–no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
November!

The Autobiography of a Supertramp

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W H DaviesI first became interested in W.H. Davies (1871-1940), the author of The Autobiography of a Supertramp, when I was writing a blog entry on his poem which begins, “What is this life if, full of care,we have no time to stand and stare?”. You can read this most relaxed of poems and the blog entry here.

While scratching around to find some information about the man behind the poem, I was interested enough by what I read of his personality and life to want to read his autobiography. Even the title of it sounds quite modern and inviting to a twenty-first century reader, despite being written in the very early years of the twentieth century. Interestingly, much of the book also reads like something written more recently.

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What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

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Now the better weather’s here, there should hopefully be some time for at least most of us to take a break and relax a little. As spring is gathering momentum, it’s a good time to get outdoors and – well – do nothing. Just have a look and enjoy  the natural world around you.

Technically, this poem by  W.H. Davies may not be the greatest, but I’ve always appreciated the sentiment expressed in it and the poem is certainly eminently memorable and quotable. Over the years, the opening two lines have often popped into my head at times when I know I need to slow down and get some perspective in my busy life.

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Famous Last Words

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It would be good to think that the last words you utter in your life would be something profound. I’ve even considered writing mine in advance and carrying them round with me – just in case of emergency. The trouble is, I haven’t yet decided what my last words should be.Perhaps I’ll pinch William Hazlitt’s last words: “Well, I’ve had a happy life” or Harold Macmillan’s: “I think I’ll go to sleep now.” They’ll do if I don’t think of anything better in the meantime.

Here are some last words said by famous people. See whether you know who said them – then try them out on your friends and family:

1. “Let not poor Nelly starve.”
2. “I’ve never felt better.”
3. “How is the Empire?”
4. “Et tu, Brute?”
5. “Does nobody understand?”
6. “Kiss me, Hardy.”
7. “I am just going outside and I may be some time.”
8. “Die, my dear doctor! That’s the last thing I shall do.”
9. “I have a terrific headache.”
10. “Go away. I’m all right.” (He wasn’t….)
11. “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
12. “Is it my birthday or am I dying?”

Answers can be found here

And here are a few people whose last words were really quite.. well. ordinary:

“Wait a minute.” (Pope Alexander VI)
“No.” (Alexander Graham Bell)
“Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you.” (Johannes Brahms)
“Hello.” (Graham Chapman)
“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” (Steve Jobs.)

Do you have any other good examples of famous last words?