Sunday Poetry – Thomas Hardy

After last week’s melancholy Hardy, this week’s poem, The Ruined Maid, is much more spritely. The speaker’s view of the advantages of ruin, at least as far as clothes & “polish” go are witty & satirical but I wonder how chirpy ‘Melia will be in a few years time? The Persephone Post from a couple of weeks ago featured Augustus Egg’s triptych, Past and Present 1, 2, 3, which gives a more traditional, middle-class view of a woman’s ruin.

“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “At home in the barton you said thee’ and thou,’
And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – Thomas Hardy

  1. I have always liked this poem and it's two characters. But most of all I like the way that Hardy so earnestly tried to point out the limitations for poor women in the Victorian period. Youth and beauty just don't last very long. I really appreciate your Sunday poetry.

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  2. I inherited a book of Hardy's poetry about 25 years ago, it was published in 1920 but I've never even dipped into it. I will now. Thanks. I have read most of his books though.

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  3. His poetry is a lovely complement to the novels, I think. The same themes & lots of doom & gloom but some happier lyrics too. The poems he wrote after his first wife's death are very beautiful.

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