How to be an Old Poet: The Examples of Hardy and Yeats



Ten or twelve years ago I wrote an introduction to a volume of Hardy’s poems in which I considered the consequences for the poetry of the fact that most of it was written in the last decades of a long life.1 I want to return to that subject here, but in a different way, expanding it to include another great modern poet, and shifting it upward to the level of theory: The Theory of Old Poets. That’s how our thinking about art works, isn’t it? We have an idea, time passes, the idea grows, spreads, changes, until particulars begin to look like principles, and we have a theory. I’m a decade and more older than I was when I first wrote about Hardy and old age. And so, I might add, are you. A decade nearer our own old age: high time we thought about it.


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  1. Quotations from Hardy’s poems are taken from The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy, ed. Samuel Hynes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982–95) 5 volumes.Google Scholar
  2. Quotations from Yeats’s poems are taken from The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (London: Macmillan, 1950).Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Introduction to Thomas Hardy, ed. Samuel Hynes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Thomas Hardy, The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, ed. Michael Millgate (London: Macmillan, 1984) p. 478.Google Scholar

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© Samuel Hynes 1998

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