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The Shadow of God in Poems of the Past and the Present

Abstract : Thomas Hardy’s loss of faith when he was a young man in London was never a thing of the past, so that most of his writings are haunted by the Scriptures and the question of belief. As Claire Tomalin explains: “He could no longer believe, but he cherished the memory of belief […] .” His Poems of the Past and The Present (1901) are imbued with these contradictory feelings of rejection and nostalgia. The reality depicted by Hardy does not exclude the spiritual or the supernatural, but these are emptied of any sacredness: they are made of “Shades” (184) and “Memory” (185), not of God’s presence or faith. Hardy sounds the death knell for the cruel “Battle-god” (99) of the past: in “Doom and She”, God is presented as a heartless “World-Weaver” or a blind “Matron” (119). Humanity has been abandoned, “forgotten” (123), by a creator that in a later poem Hardy will reduce to the senselessness of the “Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything ” (306) – an invisible but powerful presence, the ghostly shadow of God.
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Stéphanie Bernard. The Shadow of God in Poems of the Past and the Present. Thomas Hardy, Poet: New Perspectives, 2015. ⟨hal-02360217⟩

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