Aspects of the Unusual and Irrational
Hardy’s interest in ballads, local and literary, is discussed elsewhere (p. 205). Their influence on his plots is sometimes highly overstressed. Reduced to its essential minimum, the story of Tess or Fanny Robin recalls many a ballad theme. Parallels with Scott’s ballad-like shorter poems are presented in some of the epigraphs to A Pair of Blue Eyes. Yet the plot is too elaborate and too sophisticated an artifact to suggest that it originated in balladry. Some of the shorter stories such as ‘The Three Strangers’ and ‘The Fiddler of the Reels’ would, it is true, make excellent ballads, but the argument post hoc propter hoc is rather ingenuous. In a different vein, ‘The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid’ would make a ballad sequence. Transfer the story of Eustacia’s attempt to escape with her lover to a medieval setting, and we have an excellent subject for a ballad. Endow her with witchcraft, make Susan Nunsuch the central figure, and the subject is medieval. One could continue with ‘The Winters and the Palmleys’ and ‘Master John Horseleigh, Knight’; or, on a larger scale, ‘What the Shepherd Saw’. As a final confirmation, the ballad style and subject of several of Hardy’s poems might be adduced.
KeywordsArgument Post Modern Language Association Psychic Phenomenon Satanic Element Excellent Subject
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