FIERY DEATH, ETERNAL FRUIT
Logs on the Hearth by Thomas Hardy
Sometimes I feel the need to have a little background music as I write. I find that it helps put me in certain moods and thus it instigates certain thoughts or modes of thinking. I am listening to the sound track from the movie Garden State because it takes me to a good place of reflection. The song I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You (by Colin Hay) is playing right now. Serendipitously? Hmmm.
This music goes perfectly with Hardy’s poem Logs on the Hearth. This poem was written in memoriam of Hardy’s sister who “died in November 1915" (Page 2262). This poem seems so raw as it sings the sounds of a former time...a time of climbing and living and changing and loving. Hardy’s remembrance of things past is remarkable as he puts this childhood playmate on the fire and watches it slowly turn to ash (echoing the idea of his sister also turning to ash or dust).
“The fire advances along the log/ Of the tree we felled/ Which boomed and bore striped apples by the peck/ Till its last hour of bearing knelled” (Line 1-4). Fire is analogous to death in this poem as it burns up the things of the past, the life that was in the past. Fire in Hardy’s poem is very similar to the West Wind in Shelly’s Ode to the West Wind. It is that necessary element that takes no longer animate objects and gives them life through the act of burning. The tree that Hardy and perhaps his sister cut down is no longer living but gives life through its ability to change in the presence of the flame. No doubt... the once fecund tree is comparable to the life of Hardy’s sister. The tree produced basketful after basketful of apples until “its last hour of bearing knelled” (Line 4). Hardy’s sister was alive and fecund as could be– until the moment she wasn’t! So the fire moves across the log giving heat, life, energy from its lifeless limbs. Death has performed this function on Hardy’s sister, taking from her lifeless state energy that the universe will use many times over. This is a thought that Lucretius speaks of often in his work De Rerum Natura. The life of one passing away releases atoms and essential elements that will be used by another as they enter this world of constant flux. The only constant is this constant flux of change.