chapter  7
9 Pages

Some Contemporary Poets

It is time to turn to those living poets through study of whose work these reflections have arisen. Mr Hardy is for every reason the poet with whom it is most natural to begin. Not only does his work span the whole period in which what I have called the neutralization of nature was finally effected, but it has through­ out definitely reflected that change. Short essays in verse are fairly frequent among his C ollected P oem s, essays almost always dealing with this very topic: but these, however suggestive, are not the ground for singling him out as the poet who has most fully and courageously accepted the contemporary background; nor are the poems which are most definitely about the neutrality of nature the ground for the assertion. There is an opportunity

jects, for example ‘The Self Unseeing’, ‘The Voice’, ‘A Broken Appointment’, and pre-eminently ‘After a Journey’. A poem does not necessarily accept the situation because it gives it explicit recognition, but only through the precise mutation of the attitudes of which it is composed. Mr Middleton Murry, against whose recent positions parts of this essay may be sus­ pected by the reader to be aimed, has best pointed out, in his Aspects o f L iterature, how peculiarly ‘adequate to what we know and have suffered’ Mr Hardy’s poetry is. ‘His reaction to an epi­ sode has behind it and within it a reaction to the universe.’ This is not as I should put it were I making a statement; but read as a pseudo-statement, emotively, it is excellent; it makes us remem­ ber how we felt. Actually, it describes just what Hardy at his best, does not do. He makes no reaction to the universe, recog-

[70] Mr Hardy stands high above all other modern poets by the deliberate purity of his responsiveness. The contagion of the

world’s slow stain has not touched him; from the first he held aloof from the general conspiracy to forget in which not only those who are professional optimists take a part.