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This review is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

PROPER PLACE Thomas Hardy, Selected Poems, edited by David Wright (Penguin Books) £1.00

One would like to think that the arguments over Thomas Hardy's status as a poet are now largely settled, that he need no longer be the big stick to beat the modernists with. Nobody would want to take Leavis's views in "New Bearings in English Poetry" seriously any more; nor wonder much at Michael Roberts's blindness in omitting Hardy from the Faber Book of Modern Verse in 1936; nor at Eliot's snide dismissal ("He observed drily that the poems of Hardy always struck him as being those of a novelist"); nor at the sort of bewilderment shown in the Twenties when Hardy was producing his maturest work ("Mr. Hardy is indeed, in the truest sense of the phrase, a poet of today; but he is also an old man, and his verse is an old man's poetry.") Only Pound revealed any generosity and insight, stating in 1937: "Now there is clarity. There is the harvest of having written twenty novels first." And though attempts to construct an anti-modernist, "native" tradition in poetry with Hardy as its father-figure now look a little old hat-the chafings of some poets and critics in the Fifties at having to live and work under the shadow of the modernist monument-the debt of gratitude, to such as Larkin ("one reader at least would not wish Hardy's Collected Poems a single page shorter, and regards it as many times over the best body of poetic work this century so far has to show"), and such as ...


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