How does Thomas Hardy memorably respond to the sinking of the Titanic in "The Convergence of the Twain"?
First, the title tells us quite a bit about the poem's meaning. To "converge" means to move toward union, and "twain" refers to a pair or couple. He doesn't portray the event as a crash or a sinking; rather, he describes it with a much differently connotated word: "converge" actually sounds rather positive! Further, to suggest that the ship and the iceberg were a pair, he conveys the idea that they were meant to be together.
The speaker tells us that the Titanic is being built as a result of "human vanity" and the "Pride of Life" (2, 3). In claiming that we could build an unsinkable ship, humans declared themselves to be more powerful than nature, and more powerful, even, than god. So, as the Titanic grew, "The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything / Prepared a sinister mate" for the ship: this "mate" is the iceberg (18-19), and it was created as a response to our pride. Again, the word "mate" implies a relationship between the ship and the iceberg, as though they are two halves of one whole.
Humans could not see that the ship was destined for tragedy because "Alien they seemed to be; / No mortal eye could see / The intimate welding of their later history" (25-28). The ship and the iceberg seemed unrelated to one another, and so we could not see their connection. We had no idea that they were "twin halves of one august event" (30). This line further conveys the inevitability of their convergence. Twin halves need each other to be whole.
Finally, the "Spinner of the Years" commands it, and "consummation comes" (33). Consummation can refer to a physical union or to an ultimate end of something; both denotations work here. The ship and iceberg do achieve a physical union, and this union does represent an ultimate end for the ship. The Spinner of the Years could refer either to a god or to fate.
In the end, the idea that the convergence of the Titanic and the iceberg was inevitable is supported by the metaphor comparing them to mates, as well as word choices -- such as "convergence," "twain," "intimate welding," "twin halves," and "consummation" -- that repeatedly refer to a coming together.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial