Thomas Hardy's Poetry

Ignorant about Innocence:

Hardy's Characters' Revelation Through Experience

In "The Last Chrysanthemum," Thomas Hardy asks, "Why should

this flower delay so long / To show its tremulous plumes?" He

might have well have been posing this question to himself. The

British poet wrote most of his greatest verse after the age of

sixty. Hardy proves, that through life's journey, a metamorphosis

can take place in one's perspective. Through time and experience,

innocence is lost, only realized after a death or startling

event. Hardy takes three approaches at this theme in "The

Darkling Thrush," "The Man He Killed," and "Channel Firing."

In "The Darkling Thrush," the speaker is despondent in the

first two stanzas, brooding about the atmosphere. Hardy wrote

this poem at the turn of the century, so it is probable that

these views are reflective of his feelings. Spirituality and the

vivacity of life have recoiled "like strings of broken lyres,"

giving this moment in time a feeling of apathy. The speaker is

tired and suffocated by his circumstances: the desolation of

Winter, the weariness of the last Century, and the pessimism of

change being a long ways away. Yet, he finds his faith redeemed

through "an aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small." The bird's

passionate song affects the "growing gloom," and its faith gives

it the courage to "fling his soul," paralleling Jesus or the

Kamikaze pilots of World War II who were willing to sacrifice for

the greater good.

"Was out of work" is the best excuse that the speaker of

"The Man He Killed" could find for his sin. With his choice to

enter war and to bear arms, he lost good judgement, morals, and

the ability to feel pain. He is the victim of the war's society,

where minds have devolved into narrow-mindedness and tunnel

vision. Immediate needs dictate lives, not virtue and reason.

After he kills this man who he might have given "half a crown" in

another life, his actions have caught up to him. The speaker's

mind whirls with hypothetical situations and guilt. He knows that

he had the same chance of being killed, and that he had changed

the course of the world in someway. But in the end, he concedes

that his wrongdoing can't be reversed.

"Channel Firing" deals with the aspects of innocence beyond

our life on earth. The soldiers of World War I, who are

supposedly fighting for a good cause, only help make "red war yet

redder." They are blind to see that their convictions are wrong,

and that the effect of their guns on nature is much harsher,

shaking the earth with as much terror as Judgement Day. Again,

indifference is a key factor in losing innocence and purity.

Along with their lack of compassion for life, the soldiers take

religion half-heartedly, doing nothing "for Christes sake." It

is through this omniscient role that the dead learn the

consequences of man's free will and man's abuse of it. God

reveals to them that the soldiers will "have to scour / Hell's

floor," hinting that the dead have followed the same pattern of

mistakes, and it is already too late for them to repent.

Hardy incorporates the theme of innocence lost into the

poems, but explores them in three distinct ways. "The Darkling

Thrush" displays a change in perspective through nature and the

power of one. "The Man He Killed" shows a transformation after

fighting an internal war with a split-second decision that the

speaker could not reverse. In "Channel Firing," the epiphany for

the speakers is through life after death. All of these speakers

were oblivious that they were swept away by the coldness and

triviality, and superficiality of the early 20th Century. The

central message is much like the poetry of William Blake. Only a

state of innocence opens us to a deeper level, and being

receptive and open to nature will lend one divine inspiration. In

the situation of Hardy's poems, the revelation of innocence is

gathered from one profound incident or a "rude awakening."

Related Essays on Poetry

нарядные платья