In my previous post I suggested that any (alleged) pessimism in Thomas Hardy's world-view is free of cynicism and misanthropy. Take, for example, the following poem. Hardy wrote the poem when he was 75. It was first published in The Times on December 24, 1915, when the ever-increasing horror of the First World War had become manifest. When the poem was reprinted in subsequent editions of his poetry, Hardy included "1915" as a subscript, presumably as a reminder of the historical context in which the poem was written.
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
'Now they are all on their knees,'
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
'Come; see the oxen kneel
'In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,'
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
Thomas Hardy, Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses (1917). A "barton" is a farmyard. A "coomb" is, according to the OED, "a deep hollow or valley."
I take Hardy on his word. At some point in his life he lost his faith. But there is no mockery in the poem. There is no air of superiority. There is no implicit "who would believe that!"
I am in complete agreement with him. Yes, it is true: "So fair a fancy few would weave/In these years!" We moderns are quite sophisticated, as well as unillusioned and undeceived, aren't we? But a question remains: would you or would you not "go with him in the gloom/Hoping it might be so"?