The Development of Hardy’s Meditative Lyric

  • Dennis Taylor


Like many of Hardy’s important poems, ‘Copying Architecture in an Old Minster’ is little known and never anthologised. It illustrates many of the supposed defects of Hardy’s poetry. The choice of words seems ad hoc, ranging somewhat uneasily from the archaic to the commonplace. Many of the poem’s climaxes are carried by seemingly stale formulas of expression: ‘the speechless midnight and dawn’, ‘a world so ancient and trouble-torn’, ‘ardours chilled and numb’. The meditation is fitted to a metrical frame which often seems to force the language into an artificial pattern of rhythm. The situation is a stock one, with its sinister clocks and ghosts. The poem’s final surmise seems to be the kind of obsessive conviction that early critics called pessimistic and later critics called doctrinaire.


Lyric Speaker Memory Image Religious Believer Supposed Defect Romantic Irony 
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    Some of William Morgan’s rather complex arguments about the temporal perspectives used in ‘Poems of 1912–13’ seem to parallel my interpretation. Cf. ‘Form, Tradition, and Consolation in Hardy’s “Poems of 1912–13”’, PMLA, 89 (1974), pp. 496–505, esp. 496–7: the recriminations and guilt experienced in the recent past tend to be replaced by a vision of the distant past. Davie pushes such a view to an extreme in ‘Hardy’s Virgilian Purples’, Agenda, 10 (1972), 138–56: ‘the chilling achievement is on the contrary that remorse is excluded from them’ (pp. 148–9). Davie believes that the image of early love in ‘At Castle Boterel’ represents a metaphysical reality which triumphs over time.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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© Dennis Taylor 1989

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  • Dennis Taylor

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