Wessex Tales is an 1888 collection of tales written by Thomas Hardy…it’s a fictitonal world grounded in folklore and drawn together by Hardy’s pastoral voice…Wessex is actually many places, notably Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Berkshire and Wiltshire, but since I started reading Hardy as a child and went on to study his works in University, I have always had my own ideas about what the area looks like…most of his stories take place in Wessex and in these particular tales, Hardy talks about marriage, grammar, class status, and how men and women were viewed at the time…as alienated as his characters, the land they live in is wild melancholy, dark and brooding…(e.g.in “The Return of the Native” the heath is as important as the characters…see below)…this is my little piece of Wessex….There are birds coming in, so all is not desolate..I hope you can see them…
Below is one of Hardy’s poems called “A Meeting with Despair” which fits the image really well…I had never read this one before and found it after I posted the painting…serendipity again
Watercolour on Arches Not Paper
As evening shaped I found me on a moor
Which sight could scarce sustain:
The black lean land, of featureless contour,
Was like a tract in pain.
This scene, like my own life," I said, "is one
Where many glooms abide;
Toned by its fortune to a deadly dun—
Lightless on every side.
I glanced aloft and halted, pleasure-caught
To see the contrast there:
The ray-lit clouds gleamed glory; and I thought,
“There’s solace everywhere!"
Then bitter self-reproaches as I stood
I dealt me silently
As one perverse—misrepresenting Good
In graceless mutiny.
Against the horizon’s dim-descernèd wheel
A form rose, strange of mould:
That he was hideous, hopeless, I could feel
Rather than could behold.
Tis a dead spot, where even the light lies spent
To darkness!" croaked the Thing.
“Not if you look aloft!” said I, intent
On my new reasoning.
Yea—but await awhile!" he cried. “Ho-ho!—
Look now aloft and see!”
I looked. There, too, sat night: Heaven’s radiant show
Had gone. Then chuckled he. Thomas Hardy..