Although composed almost two years to the day after his passing, Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Convergence of the Twain” has nothing to do with American author Samuel Clemens. Just shy of the second year anniversary of Mark Twain’s death, another event rocked the world and moved writers to pick up their pen to in commemoration of the tragedy. That tragic event occurred on the night of April 14, 1912 and nine days Hardy completed his poem he describes between the title and the start of the verse of a “Lines on the Loss of the Titanic.”
The poem’s 33 lines first appeared in print a month after Hardy completed it in a rather unusual manner. The media that introduced Hardy’s emotional observation of the sinking of the ship declared to be unsinkable was actually a program distributed to attendees showing up “Dramatic and Operatic Matinee in Aid of the ‘Titanic’ Disaster Fund,” given at Covent Garden Theatre in London. Two years late, the poem finally received a more conventional home within Hardy’s Satires of Circumstance.
A deceptively simple poem with short lines separated into eleven stanzas, Hardy’s take on the Titanic’s remarkably shocking short life is as unusual as one might expect from the creator of Bathsheba Everdene. Hardy’s word choices and how they are combined works with his layering of imagery and theme to personify the meeting of immovable object and unstoppable force in a most peculiar way, suggesting that the ice and the steel were destined to be together against their will in a way not dissimilar to the husband and wife in an pre-arranged union.
Many writers have taken their turn at bat to try to put the unthinkable that occurred in that icy water on that April night into perspective, but Hardy was not only the first major talent to produce something, but remains, perhaps, unparalleled in his success.