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Hence Hardy became inevitably a pessimist and a fatalist. The atavistic current of England's bucolic existence, which had flowed for so many centuries about his sires, was coming to an end when he happened to be born. Coming to an end, also, was the old childlike faith in a paternal Deity, and in a special protecting Providence of that Deity. Hardy was the first, the very first writer to carry to its logical end the scientific agnosticism which after all was only a somewhat dilettante pose in Matthew Arnold. He says in effect: “Very well, if you say there is no Deity in the personal sense, but only an abstract, impersonal, unknowable, Primal Force or Energy or Will, then what is to hinder this force or will or energy from acting utterly unjustly, brutally, maliciously?” And the answer is, “Nothing.” So Hardy proceeds further, and suspiciously collects all the evidence he can find in favor of such a view, and says: “There you are—draw your own conclusions.” The only question is, does Hardy deliberately and of malice prepense suppress other evidence favorable to the activities of the Unknown Cosmic Force? I do not think so; and even if he does, so grim and fact-facing an attitude is to my mind infinitely finer and stronger than Meredith's somewhat waterish hope that the world is improving through man's unaided effort.

Hardy has been therefore, without consciously desiring it, an iconoclast, and, as with all iconoclasts, one gets the impression, in reading him closely, of a voice crying in the wilderness, of a new John the Baptist proclaiming that the axe is laid at the roots of the trees. I have said that Hardy


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is unconsciously an iconoclast. It has been his misfortune to live in an iconoclastic age, and to mourn over the shattered past. His youth he spent in drawing old churches, threatened with restoration. His old age he spends in proclaiming that the faith that reared those churches is shattered beyond hope of a restoration, and that the “ways of God to man” are in fact, unjustifiable. And yet, and yet—he is one who has an eye for the mysteries of nature, and has lived in such close communion with nature, that nature has become to him a living presence, silent indeed, and mysteriously cruel, but even more mysteriously consoling and supporting. Is it then that Hardy is almost ready to say that the forces of nature—the wind, the sea, the earth, the rain, the fire, birth and death— are almost gods, and after all the only gods man needs? He leaves us to draw the inference. At least, he can sing about them, almost light-heartedly, contrasting the beauty and power they give to man, with war's horror and desolation:

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow, silent walk,

With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame o
From the heaps of couch-grass;

Yet this will go on the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by;

War's annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

John Gould Fletcher


Poems, by Edward Thomas. Henry Holt & Co.

Edward Thomas, who published his verse under the pseudonym of Edward Eastaway, was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 1917. Although the war is barely mentioned in these poems, one is conscious of it perpetually as a part of the background, as we fancy the author was. It is not alone responsible, of course, for the tinge of melancholy or sadness in the poems, which was no doubt temperamental, but it seems to run through the volume like a dark stream, now hidden, now rising to the surface. From the poems one may imagine that this poet's attitude toward the war was fatalistic, that is, that he accepted it, quite apart from all question of the righteousness of the cause, as one accepts Fate in the Greek drama; an attitude which many of emotional temperament, without primary interest in action or politics, must share. The war is there. It can not be escaped. Statistics and world politics mean nothing to poetry, which is, after all, concerned with very small things, with Helen's beauty or the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus, the fate of the individual man. Nature and love and friendship are indeed the soul of poetry, and war's greatest wrong is against these. Therefore the poet marches darkly to his fate. But not before he has seen all things swept away, even love; and though a new birth may come, he will not share in the awakening:

I have come a long way to-day:
On a strange bridge alone,

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Remembering friends, old friends,
I rest, without a smile or moan,
As they remember me without smile or moan.

All are behind, the kind

And the unkind too, no more
To-night than a dream. The stream
Runs softly yet drowns the Past,
The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.
No traveller has rest more blest
Than this brief moment between
Two lives, when the Night's first lights
And shades hide what has never been,
Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.

What is it that we find in Edward Thomas's poems— the distinctive personal note? To me it seems as if this man looked on fields, roads, and countryside as if to impress them forever on his mind. He seems to give to his landscape that poignancy that a familiar scene has for us when we see it in the light of some strong personal emotion, and to carry this quality of intensified vision about with him, so that every small detail, endowed with the poet's imagination, acquires a life of its own. Thus he makes an old manor farm live in a light of eternity:

The church and yew
And farmhouse slept in a Sunday silentness.
The air raised not a straw. The steep farm roof,
With tiles duskily glowing, entertained
The mid-day sun; and up and down the roof
White pigeons nestled. There was no sound but one.
Three cart-horses were looking over a gate
Drowsily through their forelocks, swishing their tails
Against a fly, a solitary fly.

But 'twas not Winter—
Rather a season of bliss unchangeable

Awakened from farm and church where it had lain
Safe under tile and thatch for ages since
This England, Old already, was called Merry.

He gives us a sense of contact with nature, vital with experience, and back of it, a continuous searching for reality. I wish I could quote in this connection, The Glory, which could only be quoted entire, and also Melancholy, The Long Small Room, When First, October, Rain, and many other poems that have this special significance. Mr. Thomas's verse has come under various influences, not the least of which is a sort of Celtic waywardness, with perhaps a tinge of the homely homespun of Robert Frost. In the latter aspect Mr. Thomas, like Mr. Frost, is content to give us little character studies, or vistas, as of a copse or a field, which have a quiet charm in themselves and lead nowhere else. His poems are low-toned and quiet, almost subdued, but in this very quiet is their beauty. It is a twilight country, mellow and rich, but very cool and clear in tone. One feels that the subjective Celtic element is the most instinctive with the poet, the most inherent. Some of the poems are a little obscure at first. Mr. Thomas was at no pains to write for the public; he has been content to record his own experiences as they came to him, and that is why the poems are so richly personal. He has not written with the world looking over his shoulder, and—it may be fancy, but one detects in these poems a certain proud withdrawal from a world that could find nothing better than literary hackwork for a man of his temperament to do. He had written many books, and if, as has been said, it was

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