#25 “The Convergence of the Twain” (Thomas Hardy)

One of the most amazing scientific feats of my lifetime was Robert Ballard’s discovery of the ruins of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic, as its name suggests, is a pretty large object, but looking for it on the sea floor was like trying to find a contact lens on a hockey rink.

The photos Ballard’s team took of Titanic artifacts impressed me all the more because they seemed to be a case of life imitating art. Imitating, specifically, “The Convergence of the Twain”, Thomas Hardy’s great poem. Objects that Ballard’s expedition found on the ocean’s floor (note: brief slideshow) seemed to echo lines from Hardy’s poem. The “gilded gear” that Hardy imagined in the immense loneliness of the ocean depths came to life in the expedition’s photography.

“The Convergence of the Twain” is a very grand poem, full of unusual words, an attempt to throw all the resources of the English language at one of the most momentous historical events of Hardy’s lifetime. Two of the common elements of Countdown poems are operating in “The Convergence” at full throttle. First, there’s the imagination of something sublime (the “Immanent Will” that brings ship and iceberg together), realized in precise, sharply-etched details.

Second, there’s the strongly heightened, energetic language. The poem, like many we’re studying, has a unique form. Each three-line stanza rhymes AAA, with the first two lines very short and the third very long indeed. The effect is oddly like that of waves, retreating, building, and breaking again – in fact, Hardy imagines “cold currents” at the bottom of the sea, though one supposes that in real life there are no waves there, and not much movement of any kind. The effect, whatever its verisimilitude, is that of ceaseless, inexorable movement.

“The Convergence of the Twain” is an attempt to do justice in art to an event too enormous to contemplate by any other human means – and to imagine the aftermath of a disaster that it took another 75 years of technological progress to uncover.


7 responses to “#25 “The Convergence of the Twain” (Thomas Hardy)

  1. This poem was one of the more difficult to read for me. It had me going to my dictionary constantly. It sure gives a very discriptive details that allow for the reader to imagine it just as the aurthor sees it. The history of the Titanic is one that facinates me. There is no man build object that mother nature can demolish. In this case the builders of the Titanic didn’t think so. This poem brought back memories of when i saw the movie when it first came out. I was just a teenager taking my girlfriend to the movies. It brought images from the words that i read and from the movie that i saw. Even though it is a little complex, I sure enjoyed it.

  2. The ship was a newness representing beauty and the sea was calmness of the sea. “Over the mirrors meant To glass the opulent” I interpret as beauty among the ocean and among the passengers traveling. The well to do could afford to travel on the new ocean liner. They usually dress well and are well groomed and such, hence the outer beauty. The ship is beautiful as in “jewels in joy designed To ravish the sensuous mind.” Somehow, as life would have it, an obstacle got in the way. “Prepared a sinister mate For her—so gaily great—A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.” Things can be going well for someone and all of a sudden they hit a roadblock. An obstacle. In this case, it was an iceberg. As everything in life, paths cross, coincidences, fate, and things happen, both good and bad. In this case the colliding with an iceberg was a tragedy. In all beauty and calmness there is sad and chaos. A relative of mine, a beautiful one I might add, has just hit his roadblock. He is in the hospital fighting for his life. A beautiful person who was at the wrong place at the right time…a path…a coincidence…a HUGE “sinister mate” has come his way. Hopefully, his iceberg will melt away unlike the tragedy in the poem.

  3. In Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The Convergence of the Twain,” I am reminded of the feather that floated on the wind in the film, “Forrest Gump.” The feather symbolized destiny and dumb blind luck. Forrest says, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it’s both.” I don’t know why the iceberg was there that day to sink the Titanic, but Hardy seems to suggest it was destiny. The unusual word choices, the detailed imagery, and the form rising to a crescendo culminate into a magnificent yet sobering contrast between the beauty of the Titanic and the repulsion of human pride. Starting with the title itself, the words “convergence” and “twain” imply a divinely orchestrated appointment between one of the seven deadly sins “Pride of Life” and a higher power or fate. It seems that the “Immanent Will” is always present in life to restore the scales of balance when humanity goes over the top. Although Thomas Hardy did not say the “Immanent Will” or the “Spinner of the Years,” is God, I felt that he was saying that the sinking of the Titanic was fulfillment of Proverbs 16:16 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Thomas Hardy’s poem suggests, “Till the Spinner of the Years said “Now!” and each one hears, and consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres,” that there is a divine union between pride and destruction. As a bride is prepared for her groom, pride is prepared for destruction and the consummation produces children known as humility and wisdom. This seems to be a law in a Supreme Court that “no mortal eye” can see.

  4. This poem was hard to follow and understand. I didnt not like the format of the poem and didnt think it made much sense. It kind of reminded me of The Titanic in a way. The way the author described certain things in the poem. I remember going to see the movie as a young child and feeling the pain those people had to go through as the ship was sinking. This poem was very different from the others on the countdown.

  5. andreamcginley

    “The Convergence of the Twain” was an interesting poem. I enjoyed the nonchalant way that the speaker called forth all of the Titanic passengers’ flaws. The speaker uses over the top language to emphasize the nature of the asinine commodities of the ship. My favorite line of the poem would have to be “The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent,” because the Titanic was built to be beautiful and smart and now for it to be lying at the bottom of the ocean and all those who can see could care less about this once important vessel it lovely ironic. It just goes to show that even though people tend to hold objects in such a high light, that eventually one day it will be just another piece of metal beaten and worn with no use any longer. This is also repeated in the fourth stanza, when it talks about how the Jewels were once meant to be gazed upon by all, but now they are just like another unimportant rock at the bottom of the ocean. This poem sounds more like a warning to all who read it to figure out that our possessions are not what we want them to be. Because if someone is always searching for the next best thing to be flashier than before will never stop their quest and forever be unhappy.

  6. spontaneous12

    “The Convergence of the Twain”

    “In a solitude of the sea”
    The poem reads: In the loneliness of the sea
    At the bottom, far from human existence,
    And the pleasure of human creativity that planned her (A pleasure meant design to orchestrate the creation of the ship was at hand),
    Steel interior and exterior of the ship’s frame was too late for disaster. The need for wood to shelter the ship’s cold was unnecessary because the people that didn’t survive would eventually have suffered from hypothermia. “Of her salamandrine fires” This line says that The Titanic was supposed to be an unsinkable ship and that the ship’s wood was forever burning. In other words, The Titanic was meant to last longer than it did but it didn’t and it became a perfect sink instead of a perfect ship.
    Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres
    The cold currents swept through the wood and turned the ship into a sad musical beat.
    “Over the mirrors meant
    To glass the opulent
    The sea-worm crawls—grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.”
    The mirrors were meant to show glory to the faces of the wealthy but the sea became their home amongst sea worms that crawl along with other disgusting, slimy creatures.
    Fancy clothes and jewels created for joy on that ship turned into lightless pearls as their sparkles faded and became black and blind.
    Fishes were near as if gazing at the ship inquiring what does all this irrelevant gloriousness mean now?
    “Well: while was fashioning
    This creature of cleaving wing,
    The Immanent will that stirs and urges everything”
    It seems that the ocean was fancier than anything. It fashioned in its design to slice the wing of the ship and urged its valiant expression.
    The ship had a vicious mate that served her unexpectedly great. The presence of ice seemed to be far from meeting its match with the ship until it actually happened.
    And as the brilliant ship in its magnificence grew, nevertheless, simultaneously, the ship became unaware of the silent predator of an iceberg.
    The iceberg was like an alien. Nobody really knew of or heard of its capabilities. The history of the disastrous moment occurring would need an endearing welding job in the hearts of victims and families.
    A sign needed to be clarified that it was coincident instead of a purposeful tragedy. Soon, the Titanic became twin halves on an August event that was scheduled to be a glorious occasion instead it turned out to be a frightening one.
    “Till the Spinner of the Years”
    It was a reference to the maker who is said to have had a time clock as to say “NOW” when turmoil was to occur. Then the Titanic turned into two hemispheres and the rest was history in the making.
    Thomas Hardy
    Justin J. Crowder

  7. This week was one of those weeks where I just really couldn’t relate to any of the poems. I don’t know of it was the poems, or if it was just me. I’ve always been mystified by the Titanic and its wreckage. I keep recalling the image shown in class of the stacks of dinner plates. There’s just something eerie about it. I do like stanzas eight and nine. I think it’s a great description of the events to come. Two objects, completely opposite and completely unrelated would later collide in a very historically significant event.

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