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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hardy's dangerous companion : a study of the poetic relationship between Thomas Hardy and A.C. Swinburne Pearkes, Eileen Delehanty


Thomas Hardy's elegy to A.C. Swinburne, composed in 1910 shortly after his death, points to a poetic relationship between the two poets which goes beyond admiration or influence. The relationship between Hardy and Swinburne has not been adequately explored by twentieth century critics, and it is the central purpose of this thesis to examine more closely parallels between them on the level of technique. Analysis of Hardy's elegy entitled "A Singer Asleep" suggests how Hardy may have identified with Swinburne on the level of technique. Swinburne and Hardy both lived in London in the 1860s, a lively period which provided them both with much creative and intellectual sustenance, including in the area of prosody. And although Hardy's career as a novelist temporarily eclipsed his career as a poet, the seeds planted in those early days in London provided him with an enduring sympathy for Swinburne's work which continued long after he resumed his career as a poet. Several components of Hardy's technique suggest a sympathetic connection with Swinburne on Hardy's part, reflecting not so much influence but rather inspiration. Hardy's metrical borrowing of several forms unique to Swinburne did not result in poems of identical character; Hardy's adaptations exhibit his distinct poetic style. His experiments in classical prosody are similar to Swinburne's in their willingness to resist convention. In his use of trisyllabic substitution, Hardy has tested the limits of this technique just as Swinburne has, and it can be argued that Hardy is ultimately more successful in his attempts to loosen the iambic line. The two poets also conducted extensive experiments in the use of rhyme, either through imitation of established schemes or invention of new patterns. This comparison of the techniques of Swinburne and Hardy prompts some reconsideration of Hardy as a naive and clumsy poet, and suggests that he was far more learned and considerate in his use of prosody than has been concluded by many twentieth-century critics. Hardy's uneven but highly expressive rhythms demonstrate not naivete, but a desire to test the bounds of tradition, and it was in this desire that he found poetic companionship with Swinburne.

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