Critical Essay Convergence of the Twain, written by Thomas Hardy, is a poem concerned on the loss of the Titanic. Although the event is one of great loss and sadness, Hardy writes about the sinking of the Titanic in a very euphemistic way – he attempts to find the positives. He does this through many literary techniques, such as imagery and symbolism.
One of Hardy's messages in the poem is that the Titanic was somehow doomed to sink, and better for it. For instance, the title itself (Convergence of the Twain) really does not instil a scene of destruction and violence, more one of peace and harmony. Hardy has used the word “twain” to both give extra impact to the title and to imply that the iceberg and the Titanic were somehow related, as “twain” is an archaic term for twin. This idea of fate is continued throughout the stanzas, particularly in numbers VII and IX. Emphasis is placed upon the inevitability of the sinking, and Hardy attributes this to fate:
“No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history”
This idea of mortality implies that we humans could not have seen the forthcoming disaster, but there is an immortal presence that could – it seems that somehow nature itself had planned the sinking. The Titanic was so over-hyped and boasted about that it was doomed to sink! This leads into another theme of the poem – that humanity should never try to beat nature.
The Titanic was conceived to be unsinkable, and was the biggest, most luxurious passenger ship ever built. But this is almost a challenge to the world of nature. It seemed then that humanity had beaten nature – no longer would the seas claim ships. Yet on her maiden voyage, the ship sank – mostly due to human error and ego. The contrast between nature and humanity is clearly shown by outward appearances. The Titanic was glorious, almost vain, but nature is very narcissistic – visually unappealing but much, much more powerful and clearly still in control, as Hardy shows with the comparison between the ugly sea worms and the outward beauty of the Titanic.
“Over mirrors meant
The sea-worm crawls – grotesque, dumb, indifferent”
Hardy has used the sea worms to symbolise the forces of nature – unaffected by the surface glamour and unable to really speak, but more powerful than humanity will ever be. The same theme is continued when Hardy gives nature a voice by personifying fish. The ask about the strange, almost alien quality of vanity and gloriousness that has entered their realm.
“..And query: 'What does this vaingloriousness down here?'...”
Hardy has, again, personified the fish to give nature a voice, but this time the message is much more coherent. Nature has removed the problem that the Titanic has presented – an expression of human superiority and nature's submission. But, as the Titanic was sunk, this shows that vanity and self-obsession have no place in nature, and humanity was almost punished for creating it, like a small child is taught a lesson by an ever watchful parent.
The fact that the Titanic sank, according to Hardy, was also the restoring of the balance between nature and humanity – instead of working against the forces of nature, we need to work in harmony. If the delicate balance of nature and humanity is upset, the world will cease to function. It is interesting to note how relevant this message is today – with crises like global warming and natural disasters threatening the world simply because we, the sentient beings on the planet, have ruined the balance. Hardy shows the balance being set right by nature creating a 'twin' iceberg:
“Prepared a sinister mate
For her – so gaily great -
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate”
Hardy shows that this was an iceberg equal, or perhaps even greater, to the Titanic's stature. The iceberg is a display of how nature is powerful – as nine tenths of an iceberg lie below the water line, hidden from the eyes of humanity, this is symbolic of nature's power. Even though nature is not visually appealing or threatening, there is far more to it than meets the eye. It could also be said that the featureless, bleak iceberg was created to balance out the huge amounts of gold, glory and vanity present on the Titanic.
The stanza also reinforces the idea of fate, describing the iceberg as sinister creates an air of menace and foreboding around it. Also, the phrase “for the time far and dissociate” shows that, although the Titanic and the iceberg are far apart, they were destined to meet.
After the Titanic has been sunk, Hardy shows the balance of the world being restored – the balance of humanity and nature set aright.
“Till the Spinner of the Years
Said “Now!” and each one hears
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.”
The Spinner of the Years has to represent fate – once again, it seems that the doomed Titanic was destined to sink on her maiden voyage, all to restore the balance between man and nature. The final line confirms this – the consummation is the finishing of the Titanic. The Titanic can be viewed as a symbol for the dividing of the world of humanity and nature, and Hardy uses the sinking of the Titanic to stand for the resolution of the problem. The jarring of two hemispheres represents both the fact that the sinking of the unsinkable ship shocked the whole world, but also that it brought the two worlds of nature and humanity back together to return to harmony. The almost paradoxical existence of the unsinkable ship has been solved, and finally the world can continue as normal.
The Convergence of the Twain is an apparently simple poem, but within it lie much more complex and meaningful ideas and messages. There are several examples of the Titanic actually benefiting humanity by sinking, and without ignoring the significance of the event, Hardy gives the reader several messages, many of which are still relevant today.