Featured Poem: A Thunderstorm in Town by Thomas Hardy

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Don’t imagine that this week’s choice of poem means we’re abandoning all hopes of summer, rather, let A Thunderstorm in Town to remind us of the rain’s sometime virtues… just in case.

Thomas Hardy was born in Dorset in 1840, named for his father, a stonemason and builder. His mother Jemima loved reading and relating local folk tales and songs. Their interests were to heavily influence Hardy’s future writings, passing on a love architecture, music and a passion for literature.

Hardy received much of his early education at home, going to school at the age of eight and leaving at sixteen. His family hadn’t the means to send him to university so Hardy became an apprentice to a local architect. After this training he went on to enroll at King’s College London in 1862, winning prizes from Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architectual Association. 

It was during this period in London that Hardy became acutely conscious of the class divisions that dictated society at the time and became interested in social reform and works of John Stuart Mill. This too would influence his work, being highly critical of Victorian society, however, having returned to Dorset in 1867 when he started writing, Hardy focused more on the decline of rural society.

Following his wife’s death in 1912, Hardy made a trip to Cornwall to revisit places linked with their courtship and penned much of the collection Poems 1912-13 which reflects on her death. Although he did remarry, Hardy remained preoccupied by his first wife’s death, writing poetry on the subject throughout his career.

Hardy died in December 1927, dictating his final poem to his wife while on his deathbed. His funeral proved to be a controversial occasion. Hardy had stipulated that he wished to be buried with his first wife, Emma however his executor insisted upon his being interred at Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, where his funeral took place in January 1928. His family wished to respect Hardy’s wishes, however a compromise was met whereby his heart was buried in Stinsford with his first wife, and his ashes in Poet’s Corner.  

 

A Thunderstorm in Town

She wore a ‘terra-cotta’ dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom’s dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.

Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.

Thomas Hardy

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