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Satires of Circumstance is a collection of Hardy’s poems that was first published in 1914. The poems in this collection appear under various headings: 'Lyrics and Reveries', 'Satires of Circumstance', 'Poems 1912-1913', and 'Miscellaneous Pieces'. They all have several quite important features in common.
One generalization we can make about these poems is their form/structure. They are all lyric poems (short poems expressing personal emotions) which exhibit a regular meter and also rhyme. Regular rhyme and metre are trademarks of Hardy’s poetry as a whole, and illustrate the fact that he used quite conventional, traditional formats for his poetry, although his poetic career spanned what is known as the Modernist period in literature (that is to say, the opening decades of the twentieth century) when many poets, writers, and indeed artists in general were experimenting quite radically with form and structure, as well as with content.
Another generalization we can make about these poems is the kind of diction (word choice or language style) that is employed therein. These poems use relatively plain language which is quite easy to follow, although Hardy also often deliberately throws in archaic words or more unusual vocabulary for greater poetic effect, for example ‘darkled’ in ‘The Re-enactment’, 'anon' in 'The Going', or ‘irised’ to describe the rain in ‘Beeny Cliffs’. But overall the language remains quite simple and everyday, and not too flowery. It is quite colloquial; some of the poems involve the speaker addressing someone else directly and take on the form of an actual conversation.
A third generalization we can make about these poems is again one that is common to Hardy’s poetry as whole. This is the downbeat, elegiac tone as he addresses themes of death, decay and loss, often looking back to the past. A glance at the titles of the poems instantly reveals their generally bleak subject-matter: ‘Ghost of the Past’; ‘Death-day Recalled’; ‘Rain on a Grave’,’God’s Funeral’. An elaborate streak of melancholy, emphasized by use of death-imagery (ghosts, graves and so on) characterizes the whole collection. This is most notable in the cycle of eighteen poems from 1912-1913, which were inspired by the death of Hardy’s first wife Emma, and which are generally acclaimed to be among his very finest and most moving work. Even in the more ironic poems, such as ‘Ah! Are You Digging on My Grave?’ and the generally brief pieces that make up the 'Satires of Circumstance' section which contain glimpses of family life and man-woman relationships, there is an overall sense of the gloomy sternness that coloured Hardy’s view on life.
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