Monday, September 15, 2008

"The Self-Unseeing"

"The Self-Unseeing" is a poem by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Tomorrow in Modern Poetry, we are going to take a look at a couple of Hardy's poems, but not "The Self-Unseeing"--it just didn't make it into the syllabus this time around.

"The Self-Unseeing" is about transience and how this transience haunts moments of happiness.

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.

She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

The speaker remembers a moment of profound blessing which was, at the time, unappreciated.

Is the poem a reminder to live in the moment, to count one's blessings as they occur?

I don't think so. Hardy's speaker seems to believe that, because we cannot know the future or imagine ourselves in a future time, we can never fully understand our blessings as they occur. Full understanding comes only afterwards and when it is too late. Thus life is sad and full of regret. That is just the way things are.

While things glow and gleam, we are looking away.

1 comment:

Gannet Girl said...

This reminds me of the end of Our Town, when Emily asks if anyone ever really realizes life as they are living it, and the narrator responds that poets and saints some, maybe.



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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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