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The Internet Erodes Human Communication, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 819

Essay

Descriptions of meliorism in Thomas Hardy’s ‘In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’.

“My pessimism, if pessimism it be, does not involve that the world is going to the dogs…On the contrary, my practical philosophy is distinctly meliorist”. This famous quote attributed to Thomas Hardy gives an insight to one the greatest British novelists. Also considered as a multitalented poet, Hardy’s poetry and ideas strongly influenced poets of the twentieth century such as D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound and Robert Graves, to name a few. His great works in literature and his philosophy viewed as pessimistic, made his peers regard him as one of the greatest writers in the English language. Many of his contemporaries labeled him as pessimistic, depressed, nihilistic, and dark poet – a label that Hardy firmly rejected and instead declared himself as a meliorist, which is understood as a middle ground between optimism and pessimism.

By analyzing one of Hardy’s famous war poems entitled ‘In Time of ‘The Breaking Nations’’, this analysis will attempt to focus on the descriptions of meliorism and how it is used to convey the idea that there is hope in the world and that it can be achieved by rightly directed human effort.

At a time when public opinion was turning against the First World War, Hardy was called upon to write this heartwarming poem which was published in a conservative paper, the Saturday Review, in January 1916. ‘In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’ describes a farmer leading his horse as he farms his fields while a young couple walk by:

I
Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

II
Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onwards the same
Though Dynasties pass.

III
Yonder a maid and her wight
Go whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

Consisting of three alternate rhyming quatrains (ABAB), this poem embodies the world-changing nature of the war in contrast to the timeless nature of the work of the farmer and the reunion of the young lovers. The title was borrowed from the Bible: Jeremiah, 51:20 – “Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms.”

“Only a man harrowing clods”: Harrowing turns over the ground to prepare for seeds. There is an intended pun on the word “harrowing”, which also means disturbing and which is in obvious reference to the nature of war. The word “only” is misleading: though indeed this concerns a farmer, the poem insinuates that such a man will survive the war.

“In a slow, silent walk”: note the sibilance here and throughout the first stanza, which, with the use of assonance in the beginning stanza (onlyclodsslow, horsenods) follows in to a malleable, slowly paced commencement to the poem, appropriate to its sluggish subject.

“Half asleep as they stalk”: the inauguration of the poem has an intentionally slow, sleep-inducing feel.

“Only thin smoke without flame”: contrasts with the dreadful fires and devastation of the war.

“this will go onward…though dynasties pass”: is indicative of the intergenerational nature of the effects of war.

“Yonder a maid and her wight”: old-fashioned language here: wight is an archaic for a man. The lovers are another everlasting theme and element added to the scene, contrasted with the horrors of war.

“go whispering by”: the purposeful silence of the landscape in this poem can be a basis of criticism— isn’t Hardy correspondingly unvoiced about the goings-on in Europe? In taking asylum in enduring truths, one may ask if he is running away from the horrendous events of the present day one.

“War’s annals”: this gives one a sense that these books, which relate to particular years, will fade away and disappear (“cloud into night”) “Ere their story die”. ‘They’ indicates the young lovers whose love for one another seems eternal.

In this poem, the importance of meliorism is apparent in the diction, puns and metaphors Hardy uses in order to create a change of tone from pessimistic to optimistic, conveying his hopeful attitude toward the future.

Furthermore, ‘In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’’ is characteristic of a certain rural vision of humanity’s correct place in Nature – a view divergent from the automated terror of man’s present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rustic scenes and a portrayal of rural life were fashionable in poetry before World War I. The peace and satisfaction, the space for thought and asylum and the melancholy felt there in England means Nature is a subject matter that runs throughout most of the poetry of the First World War.

Works cited

Edited by Herbert Rosengarten & Amanda Goldrick-Jones. The Broadview Anthology of Poetry, 1993 broadview press Ltd. Page 346.

Mehdi Hassanian Esfahani & Mr. Rohimmi Noor. Link cited:  http://www.slideshare.net/mehdi_hassanian/thomas-hardy-1877763. A Review of Thomas Hardy’s life and His Literary Works, with an emphasis on His Poetry, March 2009.

Regarding Meliorism, link cited: http://digilib.petra.ac.id/viewer.php?page=1&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&qual=high&fname=/jiunkpe/s1/sing/2003/jiunkpe-ns-s1-2003-11498053-3260-meliorism-chapter2.pdf

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