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Featured Poem: Heredity by Thomas Hardy

Written by The Reader, 19th November 2012

This week's Featured Poem selection has been chosen by Claire Yates, one of our five new Mental Health Project Workers working across North West England as part of our commission with the North West Strategic Health Authority. Claire will be working in Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust  and Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and recently enjoyed revisiting a well-loved poem by Thomas Hardy with a new perspective.

I chose this poem from an anthology I read at school. At the time I liked the idea that such a short poem could encapsulate such a vast stretch of time: the whole of man’s existence so far- and beyond.

Looking at it now, with a more seasoned and experienced eye, I can see that the idea of qualities and traits being passed on through perpetuity is not necessarily all to the good. Many people have no idea of their family histories, including illnesses and conditions that could affect them in life. Others know their families all too well, and perhaps do not want to emulate them in any way. However, I like to think that, rather than this portraying the negative aspects and frailties of human nature it does, in fact, celebrate the better parts of mankind: resilience in the face of adversity, resourcefulness and ingenuity, the desire to survive. It is, for me, a poem that tingles with possibilities, and leapfrogs over death and loss to carry on running.


I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
Over oblivion.

The years-heired feature that can
In curve and voice and eye
Despise the human span
Of durance--that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.

Thomas Hardy

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