Hardy’s poems, which resemble some earlier poetic styles both formally and thematically, explore faith, spirituality, and belief, in notably modern ways, as we began to see in the previous chapter. Unlike earlier religious poems, in which God is loving, omnipotent, and deeply concerned with humanity, in Hardy’s poems, God is far from benevolent or healing and is, instead, either maliciously malignant or cruelly, intentionally absent. Hardy struggles with these two poles but seems not to be able to discern any other model based on his observations of the world. Certainly his poems contain no blessing and no sense of humans prevailing over evil. Instead, Hardy consistently underscores the notion of entrapment between two unpleasant possibilities: either God intervenes in the world but so hates it that He actively works to punish its inhabitants, or God does not intervene in the world and instead leaves it to function on its own, which it does with an inevitable inclination towards punishment of its inhabitants. Obviously, both possibilities result in extreme human misery, and Hardy spends many of his poems trying to determine which view might be the truer one. That there might be any other option is hardly considered, since no other option — at least, none that involves happiness, reward, or human achievement — apparently seems true to Hardy’s experience of the world.
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