Poets And Poetry

The Convergence of the Twain by Thomas Hardy



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Published in 1915 Thomas Hardy (1840 - 1928) writes "The Convergence of the Twain" a poem about the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912. The title literally means the meeting of the two in this case the Iceberg and Titanic. Hardy has written his views in a poetical form like many poets today writing about a tragedy in their lifetime. Think of WW1 WW2, 9/11and poets and musicians use catastrophes as a vehicle to express their opinion and somehow to bring meaning to the chaos.

This poem is critical. The basic theme of it is: Watch out pride comes before a fall. Each verse is rather like a concrete or shape poem where the shape of it looks in this case like a liner with two short lines sitting in the middle of the page above a third large line. Verses 1 -6 deal with the present state of the ship. The final (7-11) verses deal with the lead up to its destruction.

The first stanza with its word "solitude" indicates how this supposedly wonderful ship is now alone. It was once full of life and now there is a quietness, referred to by "stilly couches she,"

Each verse has rhyming triplets such as "Pyres" "fires" and "Lyres" (stanza 2). The second stanza reminds of imminent death. The word "pyres" is like cremation and even the reference to "fires" serves as a warning that this poem won't be pleasant. In Verse 3 the reference to "sea worm crawls grotesque" isn't unlike the image of a coffin with worms crawling under the earth.

Wealth is also explored. It is also like the Biblical idea of not being able to take riches with you when you die. The "mirrors" mentioned in verse 3 represent the vanity of the rich and yet the contrast is that now a "sea-worm crawls" over them not caring about his look. He is "indifferent."

The following stanza 4 also continues with the theme of vanity. The expensive jewels that were so important are worthless. We are told how the jewels that now "Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind" For me this symbolizes the fact that possessions can't save you. The whole idea of putting faith in jewels is ludicrous. The word "blind" informs us about the shallowness of the people who bought them. When the jewels were purchased they may have seemed precious but the people were blind to assume the jewels were really worth happiness. Now the jewels are just rubbish under the ocean no good. Even the fish we are told in Stanza 5 wonder why there is all this "vainglorious down here"

In Stanza 6-11 the narrator changes time. These verses are the narrator's interpretation of how it happened. It could either refer to fate or God mentioned as "The Imminent Will" but the whole disaster was planned from the formation of this marvelous ship. Perhaps these lines would have given hope to family who had lost loved ones.

It was something out of man's control. Verses 7 refers to the iceberg being formed described as a "sinister mate" whilst verse 8 in contrast discusses how the ship growing in "stature, grace and hue". There is the difference between the "smart ship" and the iceberg which will cause disaster. Yet both will have equal importance in verse 10 because we are told they are "twin halves of one august event" They will be two halves of the tragedy. By the end of the poem in verse 11 we realize it is a master plan. Fate or God described as "The Spinner of the Years"

Two hemispheres collide in various ways, two different entities making a tragic event that will be remembered in history. Two countries will be united in tragedy and there are two hemispheres between humanity and God.


Thomas Hardy was a prolific writer. Although he wrote short stories and novels, in my opinion it is his poems that are his most powerful pieces of work.


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