Monday, December 26, 2011


As we are still in "Christmastide" as traditionally defined, the following poem by Thomas Hardy remains in season.  It is worth a chuckle to see gloomy T. H. greeted with stubborn good will when he least expects it.  

A lesson for us all, some might say.


The rain-shafts splintered on me
   As despondently I strode;
The twilight gloomed upon me
   And bleared the blank high-road.
Each bush gave forth, when blown on
   By gusts in shower and shower,
A sigh, as it were sown on
   In handfuls by a sower.

A cheerful voice called, nigh me,
   'A merry Christmas, friend!' --
There rose a figure by me,
   Walking with townward trend,
A sodden tramp's, who, breaking
   Into thin song, bore straight
Ahead, direction taking
   Toward the Casuals' gate.

Thomas Hardy, Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (1928).

"The Casuals' gate" was an entry to the "Union House" (the workhouse) in Dorchester.  "In Hardy's time any 'casual' (pauper or tramp) could apply to the police for a ticket, with which he would be admitted for supper, a bed, and breakfast." J. O. Bailey, The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Handbook and Commentary (1970), page 581.

                                        Robin Tanner, "Christmas" (1929)


Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

There goes the beloved Hardy again, bemused by the less fortunate who so often are grateful for so little. Hope yours was a merry one, Stephen.
looks like the artwork might be a etching?
Beautiful and appropriate whatever it is.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you very much, Julie.

Yes, it is an etching. I think that it is my favorite work by Tanner.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.