‘The Convergence of the Twain’ by Thomas Hardy is an eleven-section poem that is divided into sets of three lines, or tercets. These sections are portioned off like stanzas and labeled with roman numerals. The poem does follow a structured rhyme scheme. It conforms to the pattern of AAA BBB CCC, and so on, alternating end sounds as the poet saw fit. The pattern is very predictable, perhaps mimicking the movement of the ocean and the ocean.
In regards to meter, Hardy did not give this piece one specific metrical pattern. But, the lines are rather similar in length. With just a passing glance at the text on the page, a reader will immediately notice that the first two lines are significantly shorter than the third of each tercet. The two shorter lines are also separated out from the third due to the increased indention used by Hardy.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that a sea is a place of solitude. When one goes there, all human pride and vanity disappear. There is no use for it in the sea. The speaker gives a few examples specifically connected to the wreck of the Titanic. There are jewels and mirrors at the bottom of the ocean now and fish have no use for them.
The second half of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ discusses a force the speaker calls “Immanent Will.” It has the ability to decide on future convergences. It controls the will of all coming events. This force decided to “twin” the iceberg and the ship, therefore, when they met, it was all predestined to happen.
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Symbols and Themes
There are a number of symbols within ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ that are important to take note of. The first of these is the most obvious, the sea. It symbolizes another world, one that is impossible for humankind to fully understand. There is an inherent mystery to its impenetrable depths. Additionally, the speaker emphasizes the solitude which one is forced into while in or on the sea. There is no one else to speak or fight with, instead, one is forced to contend with their own consciousness.
The sea is directly connected to one of the important themes of the text, vanity. When one is consumed in the solitude of the sea there is no use for vanity. The speaker makes it clear, through a line of dialogue, that the fish are confused by even the idea of vanity, they query: ‘“What does this vaingloriousness down here?”’
A reader should also take note of the subtitle, and the context it gives the poem, before beginning an in-depth analysis. Hardy gave ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ an epigraph in order to ensure the reader knew what the poem was based around. It reads, “(Lines on the loss of the “Titanic”).” With this important piece of information, a reader is able to create a complete mental image of the wreck of the Titanic and take into consideration how earthshaking that event was.
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
In the first tercet of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ the speaker begins by referencing “human vanity.” The story is taking place in the “solitude of the sea,” far from the reaches of vanity. Without the epigraph, a reader would have no idea at this point that the text is going to discuss the Titanic.
The last line of this section references a “she” which is couched or held, by the sea. This is the ship. The Titanic is referred to as a woman throughout the text, something that was very commonplace, and still is today. Hardy is already drawing a contrast between humankind’s pride and vanity and the superior power of the sea.
Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
In the next three lines of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ the reader arrives at the wreck of the Titanic. There are “Steel chambers” crumbling at the bottom of the ocean and there are no “pyres” or fires burning in the ship’s engine. It has no life. The speaker refers to these fires as “salamandrine,” meaning something having the characteristics of a salamander. The fires and the areas in which they were built should’ve been like the salamander, impervious to flame.
Rather than having these massive pyres, there are “Cold currents thrid,” or passing, through the area. They create the sounds of a lyre in the pounding of the tides. This is a pleasant image amongst the wreck of this great ship.
Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
The speaker goes on to discuss all the different things one would find in the wreckage. The first example is the “opulent” mirrors in which the richest passengers would’ve studied their reflections.
Now though, they are useless. There are only “sea-worms,” and they crawl on and around these same mirrors. In contrast to the opulence of the Titanic’s passengers, these worms are “grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.” They obviously don’t know what this place is, or the world the mirrors were created for. This shows how very useless the items are today.
Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.
Additionally, the speaker states that there are jewels in the ocean. At one point they were designed joyously in order to please a “sensuous mind.” These types of emotions do not exist in the ocean. The jewels that were once so beautiful are now sitting at the bottom of the ocean among the wreck.
They are now “lightless” and all the sparkle they once had is “black and blind.” A reader should take note of the numerous uses of alliteration in this section, such as with “bleared and black and blind” and “Lie lightless.”
Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: “What does this vaingloriousness down here?” …
It is in this stanza of ‘The Convergence of the Twain’ in which Hardy imbues the fish with the power to think and speak. They ask, “’What does this vaingloriousness down here?”’ They do not understand the reasoning behind humankind’s desire to make vain objects. Things like mirrors and jewels serve no purpose to anyone other than humanity. This puts everything very much in perspective. The ocean, in its huge expanse, is a place where human eccentricities are useless and more like trash than treasure.
Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything
In the sixth tercet, the speaker mentions “Immanent Will.” This is a force he sees as existing in the world. It “stirs and urges everything.” It is something like chaos in that it instigates the “sinister” and matches the happy with the sad. It was the fault of “Immanent Will” the ship met its twin, the iceberg. This will be discussed in-depth in the next stanzas.
Prepared a sinister mate
For her — so gaily great —
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
Now, the speaker gets to the main point of ‘The Convergence of the Twain,’ the twin nature of the ship and the ice. Immanent Will “Prepared a sinister mate” for the ship. It was “A Shape of Ice” that would mark out the ship’s destiny.
And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
The speaker continues on to explain how the two grew in tandem as they came closer and closer. Their “statures” increased, as did their “hue.” The “Iceberg” was out there waiting for the ship to arrive. They are parts of the same whole.
Alien they seemed to be;
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,
It was impossible at the time for any human to know of the connection between the iceberg and the ship. It was so strange to human understanding it would’ve seemed “Alien.” The speaker knows though that the two were welded together in history, they just had to meet.
Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,
He goes on to say that there was no indication before they met, that their “paths” were going to become so intertwined. The events of the “august event” were far from the minds of everyone on board the ship and around the world. It seemed to humanity, when the two met, that it was a terrible accident. The speaker knows better. There is a symbolic force controlling the world.
Till the Spinner of the Years
Said “Now!” And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.
In the final lines of ‘The Convergence of the Twain,’ the “Spinner of the Years” or the creature previously referred to as “Immanent Will,” said “Now!” And the two heard one another. It was at his signal that the “consummation” began. When they came together it was like two hemispheres colliding.