Beyond this, there is an interesting cosmological thread that runs through Hardy's poetry. It is true that he viewed the Cosmos (or Existence or the Universe) as something that is, at best, indifferent to our fate. Hence, we find him referring to "Crass Casualty," "purblind Doomsters," and the like. There is no denying that he possessed a tragic sense of life.
But there is another side of Hardy that can be described as serene, and accepting, in the face of this state of affairs. This serenity and acceptance arise from a sense of -- I am wary of using these words -- oneness and continuity, of timelessness in the midst of unceasing change. This was not the product of any theological principles. Hardy did not go in for those.
But I should stop, and let the poems speak for themselves.
In a Museum
Here's the mould of a musical bird long passed from light,
Which over the earth before man came was winging;
There's a contralto voice I heard last night,
That lodges in me still with its sweet singing.
Such a dream is Time that the coo of this ancient bird
Has perished not, but is blent, or will be blending
Mid visionless wilds of space with the voice that I heard,
In the full-fugued song of the universe unending.
Thomas Hardy, Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses (1917).
The bird of the poem is a fossil of archaeopteryx, which Hardy saw in the Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter in 1915. J. O. Bailey, The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Handbook and Commentary (University of North Carolina Press 1970), page 345.
Call me dreamy, addle-pated, and/or old-fashioned, but I love a poet who writes without irony of the "visionless wilds of space" and "the full-fugued song of the universe unending."
John Aldridge (1905-1983), "First Frost"
Later in the same volume -- which was published in Hardy's 77th year -- we find this:
When the cloud shut down on the morning shine,
And darkened the sun,
I said, "So ended that joy of mine
Years back begun."
But day continued its lustrous roll
In upper air;
And did my late irradiate soul
Live on somewhere?
Thomas Hardy, Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Verses.
The OED defines "irradiate" as: "illumined; made bright or brilliant."
John Aldridge, "The River Pant Near Sculpin's Bridge" (1961)
As I have noted on previous occasions, Hardy is at home in graveyards. In Hardy's poetry, casual conversations with ghosts are a common occurrence, and are no cause for alarm. It thus makes perfect sense that those who have departed are likely to find their way back into our World via other avenues. Nothing ever vanishes. A comforting thought, I think. One that cannot be proven, of course. But that is of no moment.
Portion of this yew
Is a man my grandsire knew,
Bosomed here at its foot:
This branch may be his wife,
A ruddy human life
Now turned to a green shoot.
These grasses must be made
Of her who often prayed,
Last century, for repose;
And the fair girl long ago
Whom I often tried to know
May be entering this rose.
So, they are not underground,
But as nerves and veins abound
In the growths of upper air,
And they feel the sun and rain,
And the energy again
That made them what they were!
Thomas Hardy, Ibid.
John Aldridge, "The Pink Farm" (1940)
All of this is reminiscent of a poem that has appeared here before, a poem that was written on the other side of the world eleven centuries or so before Hardy wrote these three poems.
Climbing the Ling-Ying Terrace and Looking North
Mounting on high I begin to realize the smallness of Man's Domain;
Gazing into distance I begin to know the vanity of the Carnal World.
I turn my head and hurry home -- back to the Court and Market,
A single grain of rice falling -- into the Great Barn.
Po Chu-i (translated by Arthur Waley), in Arthur Waley, One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1918).
That's it, isn't it? "A single grain of rice falling -- into the Great Barn." More than enough for one life.
John Aldridge, "Beslyn's Pond, Great Bardfield"