War and Pax Britannica
I have often thought that a diary-entry made by Thomas Hardy in the section dated ‘August onwards’ of 1914 is in several respects the most poignant, melancholy, and revealing passage of that thinly disguised autobiography, Later Years. The date marked the onset of the Great War, though nobody, not even Hardy, could have predicted its length or the full measure of its bloodiness; but the diary notation was also an extraordinary opportunity for Hardy — who acknowledged himself to be ‘an old man of seventy-four’ — to look back on a lifetime of thinking about the horrors of war. This chapter assesses the importance of that theme in Hardy’s poetry — and might well begin with a review of the circumstances whereby Hardy, several years after the publication of Part iii of The Dynasts, became a poet on war themes once again.
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