Analysis of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ by Thomas Hardy
Analysis of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ by Thomas Hardy -This poem was read first at a concert planned as a charity event for the victims of the Titanic disaster. Titanic sank on 12 April 1912. The manuscript of this poem bears the date 24 April 1912. Coming so soon after the disaster, readers may expect outpourings of grief or anger at God’s action that resulted in the loss of 1500 lives. But this poem has none of that. Instead, it has a criticism of man’s vanity and the acceptance of the unstoppable nature of fate.
Though this poem was first read at an event held for raising money for the victims of the Titanic disaster, Hardy robustly avoids all sentimental hand-wringing. Instead he describes the Titanic at rest at the bottom of the sea replete with mirrors, jewels and other features of opulence, but now only visited by curious fish and sea worms. There is no light at the bottom of the sea so the jewels do not sparkle. There is no neck or arm on which the jewels can be displayed to please the vanity of the wearer.
From stanza VI, the tone changes and the poet talks about the hand of “Immanent Will” in shaping the events that lead to the sinking. The ship’s nemesis, its counterpart, the iceberg takes shape at the same. Both grow in stature each unaware that their fates are entwined. But at the given moment, the master puppeteer whom Hardy refers to as the Spinner of the Years, given the signal and the two opposing forces meet causing destruction and loss of life.
The poem takes an unemotional look at the sinking of the Titanic. The ship had been conceived as the last word in luxury, it resembled a floating palace with sweeping staircases and ballrooms. The rich and the famous of that time were on the passenger manifest. But ironically none of the pomp and splendor that marked the ship were of any use to them. Now the ship lies at the bottom of the sea. The jewels and the mirrors that fed the vanity of mankind are inspected with curiosity with fish and sea worms.
Technology had come into conflict with the force of nature and nature won. From Stanza VI onwards, the poet moves on to the inevitability of the decree of Fate. Here he calls it Immanent Will. The ship and the iceberg take birth at the same time. They both grow unknown to each other. When the “Speaker of the Years” or an omniscient power decides, the “Twain” meet resulting in the loss of 1500 lives.
The poet introduces the setting of the sea in the first line itself. The ship conceived as the ultimate symbol of man’s vanity rests at the bottom of the sea far away from humanity for whom it was meant. The rhyme scheme is AAA. The very structure of the stanza physically resembles am ocean liner.
At the bottom of the ocean are the steel chambers that formed the core of the ship. The huge fires that power the ship are dead. Instead the ship moves as determined by tidal swells.
Sea worms crawl over the huge mirrors that were to reflect the opulence of the interiors of the ship. The mirrors not only serve no meaningful purpose here but juxtaposed with sea worms, bring to us the notion of the emptiness of vanity.
Exquisite jewels fashioned to charm the “sensuous mind” lie in the darkness of the ocean’s floor. No human eye can gaze at their beauty so they have no value.
The fish that wander in and out gaze at all this, and wonder why these trinkets that pander to human vanity are lying there at the bottom on the sea.
While this sleek and fast ship was being made, other things were set in motion by the divine force that moves and controls everything. The poet capitalizes Immanent Will to show its importance and force.
The Immanent Will has chosen for this brittle but pretty ship, a mate that is just its opposite. It is a sinister hulk of ice. The die is cast for an event that is still far in the future.
In the dark mysterious depths of the ocean the iceberg keeps growing even as the ship takes shape too.
So different were they, no human eye could have ever discerned that their later lives would be intimately linked.
No one could have understood that their paths would soon meet even though they were the two halves of an unstoppable event.
That moment comes when the “Spinner of the Years” gives the signal to set in motion the final event or the consummation of two incompatible halves.
Overall impression – Analysis of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ by Thomas Hardy
The first five stanzas are a robust criticism of fruitless human vanity. The remaining verses are about the inexorable nature of fate. Once fate decrees, no one can stop an event.