Some Idling With Thomas Hardy / Weihnachtslesen

gnome relaxing, by J***, ca. 2006

„How To Be Idle“ (draft, uncorrected)

Finally, thanks to some prominent person’s birthday, I managed to follow some of the wise recommendations by Tom Hodgkinson and had a couple of days of wonderful slouching around in good company with talk, food and drink, books, music, thought and sleep.  I chose another one of the novels of Thomas Hardy. So far I had enjoyed „The Return of The Native“, „Under The Greenwood Tree“ and „Far From The Madding Crowd“ and very early on, in the Eighties, had read „Tess von den d’Urbervilles: Eine reine Frau“ (the translation by Paul Baudisch for German publisher Reclam. Some day I shall finally read it in the original.)

There is still plenty else of Thomas Hardy novels ahead, among them very famous ones as „The Mayor of Casterbridge“ and „Jude the Obscure“. For now it was, from the Folio Society collection in the private shelves:

„A Laodicean“

“ 15 I know thy workes, that thou art neither cold nor hot, I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarme, and neither cold nor hot, I wil spew thee out of my mouth:
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and haue need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poore, and blinde, and naked.
18 I counsell thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest bee rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakednesse doe not appeare, and anoint thine eyes with eye salue, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I loue, I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore, and repent.“

What it’s about a Laodicean, as explained from King James Bible, Revelations, Chapter 3

I am someone starting at the beginning and reading on without any peaking in the back and treat forewords as afterwords. This time I did read the introduction by Trevor Johnson and both forewords by Hardy himself. Hardy had written the novel late in the 19th century and placed the story at the time, when photography and the telegraph were coming in use, but since he had dictated half of the novel from his sickbed he revised the whole book in the Twenties of the next century; hence a second foreword.

Anyway, I was somewhat prepared, also to bad-hat William Dare, but the end of chapter 12 caused me, as I was reading reclinatus on the ottoman, to a shocked and surprise grunt, as his conniving became apparent. This novel might not be that well known for good reasons, but I do enjoy reading it and meeting therein discourses of religious and technical matter: Pedobaptism and medieval architecture, and also Family (written with a capital letter, concerning those with birth and pedigree) and emancipation, tradition and progress.  The plot entertains me well, and I already enjoyed several beautiful descriptions of landscape, scenery, atmosphere which I always anticipate with joy when reading Thomas Hardy. This might not be a great novel, again, the place and circle of people and complexity of social interacting is far from, say, George Eliot’s „Middlemarch“, but worthwhile. There still lingers the complicated sentimentality and sensibility between man and woman I encountered when reading Kierkegaard or Chamisso or Sterne. With heroine Paula Power, you don’t know what to make of her. It’s all kept ambivalent; Now, is she a Laodicean?

Dezember Seite aus einem Folio Almanach

Vorlesen – Der Montag vor Weihnachten

Bei der montäglichen Vorleserunde im Laden, die dieses Jahr auf den 22. Dezember fiel, kamen wir unserem kindlichen Gemüt entgegen mit Texten von Sven Nordqvist, Felix Timmermans und von Siegfried Lenz.

Aus „Morgen, Findus, wird’s was geben“ gab es die Begegnung zwischen Findus im Wald und dem Postmann, die, was Liefermoral betrifft, seltsam aktuell anmutete. Aus „Sankt Nikolaus in Not“ begleiteten wir den Heiligen Bischof in Gesellschaft mit der armen kleinen Cecilia und dem ruppigen Knecht Rupprecht bei der ausführung eines man möchte sagen völlig unmöglichen Auftrags durch die verschneite nächtliche kleine Stadt in Flandern, und das ließ mich an den Papst unserer Tage denken.

Die Geschichte von Siegfried Lenz war aus seinem herrlichen Büchlein: „So zärtlich war Suleyken“, das mir als Lektüre vor vielen, vielen Jahren mal den Wechsel ins Neue Jahr sehr vergnüglich gestaltet hatte, und auch jetzt lachten wir herzlich bei der Geschichte „Das Wunder von Striegeldorf“. Zum menschlichen Miteinander, besonders zwischen Bürger und Obrigkeit in Suleyken, fällt mir eher traurig auf, wie sehr wir uns davon entfernt haben.

Trotzdem will ich nicht den pessimistischen Realismus des Erich Kästner teilen, von dem wir zum Abnüchtern das Gedicht Dezember lasen. Ich vermute mal, dass auch ihm ein Splitter des Zauberspiegels der Schneekönigin ins Auge geraten war, wodurch Kai in dieser Welt nur Dornen und Raupen sah, und nicht die Rosenblüten, die ungeacht weiterblühen.

Alles Gute für das Neue Jahr!

The Darkling Thrush
By Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

The Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy

text source: Poetry Foundation

Bild: Original Linoldruck, handkoloriert, in der Schröerschen Buchhandlung zu kaufen.


2 Kommentare zu „Some Idling With Thomas Hardy / Weihnachtslesen“

  1. O yes the Heath description, Almathun! I love it, too, and remember it fondly. I appreciate his mastership to deepen the landscape experience by revealing its connection to the sky and to open these dimensions to the reader. I actually felt elevated and touched by the scenery and, what a good novel should do, I think I saw better and farther after reading.

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  2. I’ve enjoyed reading your pleasant and thoughtful review of Hardy’s rather unknown novel. Thanks a lot. Jude the Obscure and the description of Egdon Heath in Return of the Native are amongst my favorite pieces of literature.

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