Thought Crimes

Vacillating on the edge of boredom, desirous of some adventure.
Awaiting the end of exams, seeking an escape.
I’m provided with a book, some cash and a long road ahead.
Which do I undertake?
The ennui of these words too seems pretentious.
Distracted, denounced, disengaged.

Egdon Heath as imagined by photographer Herman Lea for the frontispiece of the 1912 edition of The Return of the Native

As to why I wrote this drab of an excuse of “poetry”, I’ll never know. All I know is that whilst studying Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, I’m overwhelmed by the meticulous portrayal of Edgon Heath which forms the backdrop of the story. I’ve always have had a reverential fondness for the Victorian moorlands and heaths. Here are four paintings that, for me, are an ideal depiction of Hardy’s heath. Complement it with the following extracts from the book:

  • “Civilization was its enemy: and ever since the 2 beginning of vegetation its soil had worn the same antique brown dress, the natural and invariable garment of the particular formation. . . . The great inviolate place had an ancient permanence which the sea cannot claim.”
  • “The sun had branded the whole heath with its mark, even the purple heath-flowers having put on a brownness under the dry blazes of the few preceding days. Every valley was filled with air like that of a kiln, and the clean quartz sand of the winter water-courses, which formed summer paths, had undergone a species of incineration since the drought had set in3
  • “She looked at the sky overhead, and saw that the sapphirine hue of the zenith in spring and early summer had been replaced by a metallic violet. Occasionally she came to a spot where independent worlds of ephemerons were passing their time in mad carousal, some in the air, some on the hot ground and vegetation, some in the tepid and stringy water of a nearly dried pool. All the shallower ponds had decreased to a vaporous mud amid which the maggoty shapes of innumerable obscure creatures could be indistinctly seen, heaving and wallowing with enjoyment. Being a woman not disinclined to philosophize she sometimes sat down under her umbrella to rest and to watch their happiness, for a certain hopefulness as to the result of her visit gave ease to her mind, and between important thoughts left it free to dwell on any infinitesimal matter which caught her eyes.”4


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