Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thomas Hardy and animals

By Tracy and John

We both love Thomas Hardy's poetry (as well as his other writings). Hardy cared greatly about animals and could make succinct poetic arguments for their rights. The following poem is that and more... very acute on class and gender too, and yet he brings them together effortlessly. John notes too the kind of de-signifying of the pastoral at the poem's very end.

(NB Every second line of this poem should be indented -- I [TR] will soon find out how to make the indents work on Blogger...!)

The Lady in the Furs
(Thomas Hardy)

"I'm a lofty lovely woman,"
Says the lady in the furs,
In the glance she throws around her
On the poorer dames and sirs:
"This robe, that cost three figures,
Yes, is mine," her nod avers.

"True, my money did not buy it,
But my husband's, from the trade;
And they, they only got it
From things feeble and afraid
By murdering them in ambush
With a cunning engine's aid.

"True, my hands, too, did not shape it
To the pretty cut you see,
But the hands of midnight workers
Who are strangers quite to me:
It was fitted, too, by dressers
Ranged around me toilsomely.

"But I am a lovely lady,
Though sneerers say I shine
By robbing Nature's children
Of apparel not mine,
And that I am but a broom-stick,
Like a scarecrow's wooden spine."


N. Hobby said...

I didn't know this side of Hardy. He certainly described the sheep quite lovingly in Far from the madding crowd.

Mutually Said: Poets Vegan Anarchist Pacifist said...

Yes -- and he wrote many others of a similar sensibility. I might post another one in a subsequent blog entry, since he's out of copyright so the poems can be shared in this way...!


L. A. Mills said...

Do you know if Hardy was a practicing vegetarian or not?



Tracy Ryan said...

I don't know (Tracy). I will check whether John knows-- he's read more Hardy biography than I have.

But even if Hardy wasn't, his poems often open the way to that kind of thinking...


Unknown said...

He was indeed a vegetarian. Quote from 'Thomas Hardy's England' Jo Draper - ''Like Hardy he (Hermann Lea, Hardy's friend) was a determined enemy of vivisection and all cruelty to animals, he would not even wear leather shoes''. I first guessed at this from his observations of animals but especially from 'Jude the Obscure' - ''though for him the sense of cheerfulness was lessened by thoughts on the reason for the blaze -- to heat water to scald the bristles from the body of an animal that as yet lived and whose voice could be continually heard from a corner of the garden''. ''Upon my soul I would sooner have gone without the pig than have had this to do, said Jude, a creature I have fed with my own hands.'' ''....he ought to be 8 or 10 minutes dying at least.....He shall not be half a minute if I can help it, however the meat may look.'' ''The dying animal's cry assumed it's third and final note, the shriek of agony; his glazing eyes riveting themselves on Arabella with the eloquently keen reproach of a creature recognising at last the treachery of those who had seemed his only friends.'' I always found that line heart breaking. Hardy was also very fond of his cat and I believe left it something in his will but it mysteriously disappeared.