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Chapter 6 - Thomas Hardy

from II - Influences and Traditions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2021

Geraldine Higgins
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
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Summary

Thomas Hardy was the first poet that Seamus Heaney discovered in his boyhood in Mossbawn, where poems set to memory and scenes from the novels began to shape an earth-rooted poetic in which he envisioned the poet as Antaeus and the poem as a ploughshare turning over ancestral ghosts and disappearing objects for the poetic reconstitution of a vanishing 'country of the mind'. When he eventually discovered Yeats, Eliot and other modern poets indifferent to Hardy, he saw their modern visionary and intellectual poetics as his Hercules, writing in 'Antaeus and Hercules' of their threat to his earthbound poetics as 'pap for the dispossessed'. Heaney’s full engagement with the moderns was accompanied by regular retreats into his Hardy haven and identification with Kavanagh, Auden, Larkin and others sympathetic to the Hardy tradition. The Antaeus-Hercules conflict was not to become a feared defeat but a liberating reconciliation borne of his study of the Hardy-Yeats-Eliot breakthroughs into the miraculous, discovering through them the balance of earth and lift essential to great poetry.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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