Explore the ways in which death overshadows the works of both Thomas Hardy and Christina Rossetti.

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Explore the ways in which death overshadows the works

of both Thomas Hardy and Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti and Thomas Hardy produced poetry that elicits specific emotional, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic responses from the reader.  Similar themes are shared in their works.  The different aspects of love are explored, be it from a loved one or as unrequited love.  Rossetti’s love poetry was influenced by medieval French love poetry, such as in “Monna Innominda,” which exposed her self-conscious and detached use of specific forms and conventions of love poetry.  “Darkling Thrush” is a sign of Hardy’s influence from other romantic poets of the time such as Shelly and Keats.  He gains astonishing poetic resonance by imagining a hitherto “romantic” creature as “frail, gaunt,” and “blast-beruffled.”  He manages to combine what looks like the subjectivity of the romantic first-person speaker with the more objective voice of the ballad, such as in “A Singer Asleep.” It invokes pastoral elegy to achieve an almost visionary intensity, but the pastoral is more usually invoked in Hardy's lyrics in order to be shown up as a poetic illusion.  Other issues explored by both poets are religion, natural imagery and moral values, but strongly projected through all of these themes, within both poets works, is the imagery and emotions associated with death.

Before I explore the ways in which death is presented within the poetry of both Rossetti and Hardy, I thought it was important to discover why they both referred to death so frequently.  Hardy addresses what the loss of a loved one means to the self; the curse that forces one to abide faithfully to the memories of the dead in light of the ambiguity with which such memories are revisited.  The poetry that Hardy produced subsequent to the death of his wife marks a point in time when Hardy reflected on the meaning of his own life.  Consequently the death of Emma spelt for Hardy reflection and regret.  Many poems discuss Emma’s nature as he remembers the time they shared together, this is evident in both “Beeny Cliff,” where Hardy stands on the cliff where he and Emma had once stood together, and in “At Castle Boterel,” another visiting place from the past.  

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Both poets write about death in an attempt to deal with their thoughts, feelings, and experiences associated with it.  Rossetti too had to deal with the idea of death.  In 1871 she contracted Graves’ disease, an illness which would bring her on the verge of death.  It transformed her mentally and physically “… her hair fell out, her skin discoloured, and her eyes bulged.” (Marsh,397)  Her life-threatening illness resulted in a reflection of her life so far.  She was acutely sensitive to life’s inevitable disappointments and losses, as well as her own fulfilment.  In a disquietingly large number of ...

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