First published in December 1898, this is much the shortest of Hardy’s eight volumes of poetry. With the last five poems, which were a late addition, it comprises only 51 poems. It is a miscellaneous collection, presenting, among others, sample poems of two apprenticeship periods which are separated by thirty years. Several of the longer ones are distinguished by strong Wessex associations, and a few are related to Wessex novels. Altogether, only four had been published previously, two in Hardy’s prose fiction. The narrative element is prominent, as could be expected of a writer who had devoted himself to fiction for over a quarter of a century. Poems relating to the Napoleonic War reflect an absorbing interest, which developed from Hardy’s boyhood until it reached its full expression in The Dynasts.


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© F. B. Pinion 1976

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