Hardy’s lines on the loss of the Titanic…

I’ve not really followed the saga of the Titanic centenary in Belfast. What I’ve read or heard about the local commemorations has been generally positive, and whatever misgivings I may have about the efficacy of the considerable public investment in the project, the loss of 1500 souls within a few hours is well worth the remembering.

It’s been big news in other places far from Belfast. Dorset, Hampshire and the Port of Southampton have also been remembering the many stories of those who perished and those who survived. And it’s a Dorset poet and novelist who wrote some of the most evocative lines on the subject and what it has come to mean within the human imagination:

The Convergence of the Twain

Thomas Hardy (1912)


 (Lines on the loss of the “Titanic”)

          I

     In a solitude of the sea
     Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

          II

     Steel chambers, late the pyres
     Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

          III

     Over the mirrors meant
     To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

          IV

     Jewels in joy designed
     To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

          V

     Dim moon-eyed fishes near
     Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: “What does this vaingloriousness down here?”. . .

          VI

     Well: while was fashioning
     This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

          VII

     Prepared a sinister mate
     For her — so gaily great —
A Shape of Ice, for the time fat and dissociate.

          VIII

     And as the smart ship grew
     In stature, grace, and hue
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

          IX

     Alien they seemed to be:
     No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history.

          X

     Or sign that they were bent
     By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one August event,

          XI

     Till the Spinner of the Years
     Said “Now!” And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty