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This article is taken from PN Review 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.

Thomas Hardy and American Poetry David Yezzi

Heir both to Hardy and - no less - to Pound,
At which address now are you to be found?

- Dick Davis, on Donald Davie

He does not think that I haunt here nightly:
      How shall I let him know
That whither his fancy sets him wandering
      I, too, alertly go?

- Thomas Hardy, 'The Haunter'

A few months after Thomas Hardy's death in 1928, and only weeks before his own, Sir Edmund Gosse recorded on two gramophone discs a memorial for his nearly lifelong friend. While Hardy lived, Gosse declared, 'if an Englishman of culture was asked: - Who is the present head of your literature? , instinctively, without fear of discussion he would be answered: "Why, of course, Thomas Hardy."' Gosse pronounced the top spot vacant, with no clear successor, though he knew enough of fame to add that any void Hardy left would be quickly filled.

Hardy's final collection of lyrics, Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres, appearing posthumously that year, delayed the decline of his poetic portfolio, but not for long. Certainly, enough 'discussion' of his importance had arisen by the early 1970s to prompt the English poet and critic Donald Davie's compensatory claim that 'in British poetry of the last fifty years (as not in American) the most farreaching influence, for good and ill, has not been Yeats, still less Eliot or Pound, not Lawrence, but Hardy.' Davie's assertion must ...


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