Is ''Hap'' by Thomas Hardy a modern poem? If yes, what elements of modernism does it have?

"Hap" by Thomas Hardy is a modern poem in the sense that it presents a bleak, meaningless universe in which suffering is the product of random chance, which is a modern subject matter. However, it's diction and syntax are thoroughly Victorian.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Thomas Hardy's "Hap" is a poem which one might describe as traditional in form but modern, even Modernist, in content. The poem is a Petrarchan sonnet and employs antiquated diction and even syntax. The use of "thou" and "thy," together with such phrases as "purblind Doomsters" and "Crass Casualty" place the poem firmly in the Victorian era.

The poem's message is initially puzzling. Hardy says that he would find the pain of life bearable if it were inflicted upon him by some malevolent deity. However, he has concluded that there is no God, merely the operation of time and chance, which have randomly allotted misery to him, but might just as easily have given him a happy life.

Hardy's atheism and nihilism, his idea that the universe is arbitrary and meaningless, though it seems malevolent, are all thoroughly modern attitudes. However, his preference for being hated by a vindictive God is an idea that seems inexplicable to most modern-minded people. One possible explanation, however, is a nostalgia for meaning, and even for tragedy. The heroes of classical tragedy were punished for their arrogance by the gods, but at least the gods took some notice of them, and their suffering had dignity. In the modern age, Hardy complains, suffering is squalid and meaningless, devoid of tragic nobility.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial