homas Hardy's poem "Convergence of the Twain" is an alternative perspective on the loss of the "Titanic" in April, 1912. The poem's major ideas concern the vessel, its state, and symbolic significance two years after the collision, and a speculation on how the iceberg came to converge with the ship. Hardy is very interested in affiliating the growth and fate of the iceberg and ship through the deification of nature and time. The first five stanzas of the poem concern the submerged ship itself, while the last six discuss its fate while afloat.
In the first five stanzas, Hardy's descriptions of the Titanic are consistently juxtaposed against the ship's present environment to emphasize the waste of money, technology, and craftsmanship. The furnaces of the ship, which contained "salamandrine fires" (5), now have "Cold currents thrid" (6) through them. Where there was once heat and life driving the engines of the ship, there is now coldness and death. A further juxtaposition within this second stanza is the use of the word "pyre" (4), as it connotes funerals and death, while the use of "salamandrine" insinuates a certain tenacity for life (as salamanders were said to live through fires) that could be associated with the Unsinkable Ship everyone believed the Titanic to be before accident.
Hardy further emphasizes the waste of the ship's magnificence by describing how useless the "opulent mirrors" are to uncomprehending sea-worms that are "grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent" (9). The jewels on board the ship, now at the ocean's floor, become "lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind" (12). The poet's use of multiple adjectives and alliteration intensifies the somber nature of these descriptions. The items that Hardy has chosen in his poem to embody the loss of the ship (the cold furnaces, bleared mirrors, and lightless jewels, rather than the loss of life) are indicative of his attitude towards the ship and what it stood for.
The Titanic was not simply a ship built to traverse the ocean; it was a symbol of the wealth, power, and industrialization of Britain during this time. The items which appear in Hardy's poem are representative of the power, wealth and vanity of the British nation. Hardy's discussion of these items, rather than the more glaring issues of death and human suffering normally associated with the loss of the ship, would seem to indicate his disdain for the pride and importance that his contemporaries placed upon scientific and technological progress.
Hardy's discussion of the Titanic shifts in stanza six to address the cause of the disaster. His use of enjambment between the sixth and seventh stanzas seems to be a technique employed to represent not only the coming together of the iceberg and ship in the poem, but also their literal collision. Hardy's use of deification for both nature and time in the last six stanzas contribute to the ominous and fated quality of the Titanic disaster. Hardy suggests that the Titanic converging with the iceberg was not a coincidence, but rather an event planned by an "Immanent Will" (18) and "The Spinner of the Years" (31); inferring the ship had been destined for destruction since its inception. The eighth stanza, perhaps the most ominous of the poem, outlines how the ship and iceberg grew to their completion concurrently, "as the smart ship grew / In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too" (22, 24). Hardy uses words such as "mate" (19), "intimate welding" (27), and "consummation" (33) to emphasize the apparent predestination that these two behemoths seemed to have, and to imply a wedding or sexual union of those mighty opposites.
Although he does not indicate implicitly that he believes in the powers he names, Hardy weaves these deifications into the poem to create a desired effect. The powers are not portrayed as benevolent or merciful as the Christian God would be, but rather they are the cause of this disaster. It would seem that Hardy is telling his audience that humanity, no matter how progressive we may become, will always be at the whim of nature, which has no feeling or care. We are not able to rise above or control a monolith such as the sea regardless of how far our progress has taken us. Knowing the Titanic disaster then, according to Hardy, should be a constant and humbling reminder of humanity's fallibility.
Last modified 16 November 2001