Sunday Poetry – Thomas Hardy

When I set out for Lyonnesse was written in 1870 & it has the feeling of a ballad of olden times. Hardy’s county of Wessex used the geography of southern England but he replaced a lot of the actual place names with imaginary ones. Lyonnesse is his name for the Isles of Scilly. This is a more optimistic poem than last week’s choice and although we don’t know what happened to the speaker on his visit to Lyonnesse, it obviously made him very happy.

When I set out for Lyonnesse,
A hundred miles away,
The rime was on the spray,
And starlight lit my lonesomeness
When I set out for Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away.

What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there
No prophet durst declare,
Nor did the wisest wizard guess
What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there.

When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes,
All marked with mute surmise
My radiance rare and fathomless,
When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes! 

2 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – Thomas Hardy

  1. I like that – it's like a visit to fairy land, or El Dorado, something hidden, secret and unobtainable, and he returns with a glamour (or spell) cast upon him, having found love and happiness…

    Lyonesse was one of those mythical ancient lands that vanished beneath the waves. I think it's supposed to have been off the coast of Cornwall, in the area where the Scillies are. It's got connections with the Arthurian legends, and for some reason I have a feeling there is a link to Brittany, but I may be mixing it up with Ys, which is another of those long lost kingdoms.

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  2. I always like reading Hardy's happy poetry. It reminds me that he's not all doom & gloom – even though I find it fascinating. The connection with Arthur is interesting. In some ways, Cornwall is closer to Brittany in its mythology than it is to the rest of Britain, isn't it? Before the railways arrived, it was quite remote & it was probably easier to trade with the continent than go North.

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