Saturday 13 February 2021

Jolly Hardy

 Well, it seems the ancient weather lore is right: a few days after that sunny Candlemas, in blew the Beast from the East, bringing snow, deep frosts, cutting winds, and icy roads and pavements. 
Here is a jolly little poem by Thomas Hardy, amused by a group of 'buxom women' trying to stay upright on the icy highway: 

Ice on the Highway

Seven buxom women abreast, and arm in arm,
Trudge down the hill, tip-toed,
And breathing warm;
They must perforce trudge thus, to keep upright
On the glassy ice-bound road,

And they must get to market whether or no,
Provisions running low
With the nearing Saturday night,
While the lumbering van wherein they mostly ride
Can nowise go:
Yet loud their laughter as they stagger and slide!

We don't readily associate Hardy, that bleak tragedian, with jolly poems, but there is a modicum of jollity and comedy mingled in with the tragedy of his novels (especially the early ones), and among the huge number of poems he wrote are a good many that could be classified as comic or humorous. One of the funniest is this old favourite, a masterpiece of sardonic comedy: 

The Ruined Maid 

"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.

Hard to believe that this was written by the author of that great tragedy of 'ruin', Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
I particularly like the line, '"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.'

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