Welcome to week 18 of my poetry reading challenge for 2023. I’ve challenged myself to read at least one poem a week during 2023 and during the month of May, they are all going to be fantastical or magical as it’s the month of #wyrdandwonder.
I began the year by reading the poems of Thomas Hardy and I’ve gone back to Hardy for this week’s poem.
Lyonnesse When I set out to Lyonnesse A hundred miles away The rime was on the spray And starlight lit my loneliness When I set out for Lyonnesse A hundred miles away.
What would bechance at Lyonnesse While I should sojourn there No prophet durst declare Nor did the wisest wizard guess What would bechance at Lyonnesse While I should sojourn there.
When I came back from Lyonnesse With magic in my eyes All marked with mute surprise My radiance rare and fathomless When I came back from Lyonnesse With magic in my eyes.
I wonder what it was that happened to the poet on his visit to the fabled land of Lyonnesse?
In reality, the poem recalls Hardy’s visit to St Juliot in Cornwall as a young architect where he first met his wife, Emma. Although that’s real life rather than fantasy, falling in love has a magic all of its own.
Week 2 of my poetry challenge and I have read a few more poems in the Thomas Hardy Collection. I am enjoying the slightly melancholic feel of many of these poems. I think that maybe I appreciate them more now that I am older as many of his poems are about things that he remembers from his youth.
One poem that really struck a chord this week was The Superseded. Hardy writes about how we have to step aside from things as we grow older to allow younger people to take our place. This is the natural order of things but still might be something that we regret. Being deemed too old to take part in something happened to me last year and it’s still a sad feeling to know that it is going on without me.
The Superseded As newer comers crowd the fore We drop behind We who have laboured long and sore Time out of mind And keen are yet, must not regret To drop behind
Yet there are some of us who grieve To go behind Staunch, strenuous souls who scare believe Their fires declined And know none spares, remembers, cares Who go behind
Tis not that we have unforetold The drop behind We feel the new must oust the old In every kind But yet we think, must we, must we Too, drop behind?
Thomas Hardy 1901
Over a hundred years later, this poem sums up exactly how I felt at the time and still feel now. This to me, is the beauty of poetry, that ability to capture feelings in words that stand the test of time.
I love poetry and always have. When I was younger, I used to spend hours writing poems that never saw the light of day, or even more embarrassingly, actually got shown or given to my boyfriend of the time. As a teacher, I used to love reading poems to my class and getting them to write their own. So why don’t I read poetry now?
I have no idea but it’s something that I want to change. So to try and make sure it doesn’t just stay as something that I will do ‘one day’, I’ve decided to set myself a challenge. I always do better when I have a bit of accountability so my challenge is that I will read at least one poem a week and write a short blog post
So here goes week one of my poetry challenge! I decided to keep things simple and revisit some old favourites to begin with.
Thomas Hardy was one of the major authors that I studied for my A level English Literature and I loved his poetry. A lot of the poems are about his love of nature, love itself and time passing and many of them have a slightly melancholic feel to them. He also wrote about the sadness and futility of war years before Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. But when he was young, the Napoleonic wars were still fresh in people’s minds and then there were conflicts such as the Crimea and the Boer War. The effect of war on young soldiers has always been the same and this waste of life is shown so clearly in Drummer Hodge.
Drummer Hodge They throw in Drummer Hodge to rest Uncoffined – just as found His landmark is a kopje-crest That breaks the veldt around And foreign constellations west Each night above his mound
Young Hodge the Drummer never knew Fresh from his Wessex home The meaning of the broad Karoo The Bush, the dusty loam And why uprose to nightly view Strange stars amid the gloam
Yet portion of that unknown plain Will Hodge for ever be His homely Northern breast and brain Grow to some Southern tree And strange-eyed constellations reign His stars eternally