The task: There is a new edition of Norton’s Poetry Anthology



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The task:
There is a new edition of Norton’s Poetry Anthology being published. As one of its three editors argue for the continued inclusion of one poem in the new edition. Your argument will take the form of an oral submission to a meeting of Norton’s board.
‘Convergence of the Twain’- Thomas Hardy
It’s enduring qualities as a piece of literature- including its appeal to contemporary audiences
The ‘Convergence of the Twain’ refers to the Titanic, the sinking of a man made invention by a natural occurrence. The poem conveys the magnitude and utter finality of the Titanic’s fate and deals with the force of fate and man’s destiny which man has no control over. Hardy suggests that God's plans are much greater and harder to discern than the petty beliefs, hopes and desires of man, meaning he is saying that everything happens for a reason. The use of ‘Twain’ in the title leads to the interpretation that this disaster was meant to happen and that it was fated, something that destiny, ‘the Spinner of the Years’ had planned. Additionally, Hardy creates a philosophical meaning about the inevitability of fate, and the indifference of nature’s eyes, by showing the disaster as an accident in a meeting between two lovers- the Titanic and a ‘Shape of Ice’, the Iceberg.
Furthermore, the poem concerns the human aspects of pride, vanity, man and nature, coincidence and the force of fate. These human aspects are shown in the first five stanzas which relate to man’s vanity, pride, and overconfidence in the building of the Titanic. The words ‘intimate welding’ in the ninth stanza, carry the mechanical reality of the metal, or welded hull, crushing up against the iceberg so that the two are stuck together and can’t be separated, showing how two loves are joined and can never be torn apart. This is also conveyed in the 10th stanza, where the words ‘Twin halves’ suggest the ship and the iceberg are two physical halves of the same whole, meaning one cannot exist without the other. In stanza 11, the sinking of the Titanic “jars two hemispheres” – England and America. After the Titanic’s sinking, the world was faced with the fact that they had been playing odds against fate and they could no longer ignore them.
The sinking of the Titanic showed how destiny is the same for all, regardless of their status, as the Titanic was a status symbol of modern technology. It showed that once fate deals her cards the wealthy and the poor all experience the same fate, human destiny. Death is a common factor in that it does not distinguish between rich and poor, which shows that no one gained special privileges, it was the exact same for every person on the ship.
‘Convergence of the Twain’ is considered literature as it refers to the events occurred during the sinking of the Titanic. As it refers to a historical event, many find the poem to be important as it gives an insight into how people viewed the sinking and how the Iceberg played a part in the tragic disaster. It is also considered to be literature as it conveys the meaning of how our fate does not lie in our hands, but is determined by a power much greater than ours.
I am going to summarise why the poem should remain in Norton's Poetry Anthology. 'The Convergence of the Twain' is a unique interpretation of the sinking of the Titanic, without mentioning the death of over one thousand five hundred civilians, instead developing on the material possessions and the human vanity associated. Thomas Hardy uses a range of techniques to support the strong historical context. The Titanic sunk on April 15th 1912, and the poem was written for a commemorative gala, which was hosted on the 14th of May 1912 under the title of the Dramatic and Operatic Matineé in Aid of the TitanicDisaster Fund. The sinking of the ship is a very well known event, and had a major impact on the operations of ships today and their safety plans.
Thomas Hardy has split the poem into two halves, the first containing the opening five stanzas, and second involving the last six stanzas. Furthermore, within the first half Hardy juxtaposes the events of the sinking with what he believed to be a waste of money on all of the material objects, and technology which has now been lost. The ships furnaces once contained "salamandrine fires," and now contain "Cold Currents." The sunken ship is now surrounded by death and not the warmth of life which was once around. The beautiful jewels have now sunk, literally and metaphorically, and "lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind." These items which have sunk represent the British Nation and its vanity.
However, in the second half Hardy changes his tone, addressing the events surrounding the Titanic's sinking. He suggests that the sinking was not accident, but a planned event of "Immanent Will" developing the idea of God playing a role in the ship's sinking. Moreover, the idea of a Higher Power is further elaborated by "The Spinner of the Years" the ship was always going to sink, it was just a matter of time. Hardy suggests that no matter how advanced we become, there will always be someone controlling the outcome. In the second half, he also discusses how the two were always destined to be together, and gives a sense of coming together such as a marriage. Hardy uses the latter half to develop the ideas when the ship was still afloat, and when it comes together with the iceberg.
Overall, 'The Convergence of the Twain' contains a significant historical context which everyone knows about and has had a major impact on the operation of ships today. The poem is written differently to how people would traditionally view the Titanic, mentioning the material possessions and the higher power who had planned the convergence of the ship and iceberg before it occurred. The poem not only has historical context, but contains a wide range of techniques, which adds to the importance of the poem. Norton's Anthology should continue to publish 'The Convergence of the Twain' due to its unique style and enduring qualities. Everyone in the current generation knows about the Titanic and how it represented that events were not all in human control, and each future generation should continue to retain the knowledge. Therefore, the Anthology should encourage the knowledge by publishing the poem.
Nikhita Devchand

Melissa Jones



Sinead Macauley
11 Literature, 2013-14


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