Here's a virtual movie of a very enjoyable poem by the great Thomas Hardy "The Ruined Maid" The poem spoken in two voices was Published in 1901, The Ruined Maid, like Hardy's novels, comments on the ironies of Victorian morality. This dramatic dialogue points up accepted social mores of a former maid who has been forced out of her post by some sort of scandal,probably just for having an intimate relationship with a male,a sacking offence for domestic staff in service during the Victorian period.She meets a former workmate who assumes she has been ruined,the supposed ruined maid taunts back with how she has in fact gone up in the world by being set free from life as a lowly maid.The poem depicts a young country girl who has become a rich man's mistress to escape her own poverty, and doesn't seem to regret her decision. Her position is contrasted with that of her old friend who is still a respectable but poor country farm worker, and who seems to envy Amelia. The poem offers an ironic comment on the lives of working class women
Hardy's poem was written in 1866 and published in 1901, exactly ten years after he completed Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which also revealed the injustices of Victorian morality and women's insecure social position. This poem is an example of a dramatic dialogue, in which a story is revealed exclusively through a verbal exchange between two characters. Playing on the word 'ruined', Hardy questions which woman's reality is the harsher and suggests the irony of class distinctions and moral rectitude.
For the purposes of this video I have employed the services of an old woods lady as our reader from a portrait by Sir George Clausen -" An Old Woman".
All rights are reserved on this video recording copyright Jim Clark 2012
"O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?" —
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.
— "You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!" —
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.
— "At home in the barton you said thee' and thou,'
And thik oon,' and theäs oon,' and t'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!" —
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.
— "Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!" —
"We never do work when we're ruined," said she.
— "You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!" —
"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.
— "I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!" —
"My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she