Tonight’s tea is an odd duck, a blend of white, green and jasmine tea with hibiscus for flavour. It’s called Buddha’s Blend, but that’s not the odd thing. It doesn’t taste the way it smells. That is the oddity. We opened the tin and observed to Miss Marschallin-cat that it was reminiscent of a blend we bought once from Wittards, Jubilee blend, a black tea flavoured with mango, mandarin and peach. That’s what Buddha’s Blend smelled of -suddenly we were back in the kitchen of the Grotto, number 68 North Street, spooning specialty Wittards tea into our teapot.
It doesn’t taste of those things though. Well, it wouldn’t, would it, with not a touch of mandarin, peach or even mango among the ingredients. That’s not to say it wasn’t lovely -it was – but it didn’t taste the way it smelled. A disconcerting culinary schism, by the way, if you’ve never experienced it. You might even say it was not as it was -for which reason, we’re giving you Hardy tonight.
Our love of Thomas Hardy’s poetry is well-documented. It might be the most beautiful in the English cannon to us. It conjures the England of coffee-table books as nothing else does, and is exhilaratingly playful in its word choice. Sometimes Hardy will even invent words wholecloth, like ‘norward’ here, or ‘illimited’ of The Darkling Thrush. At least, we’ve never seen anyone else make use of them.
More academically, Hardy, like Emily Dickenson, favours Common Metre -the metre of most hymn tunes. You can, if you’re so minded (this chorister is), set his poetry to everything from Helmsley to Aurelia, and quite a few others besides. It doesn’t work with this poem though. This one’s Dactylic Tetrameter, and if that sounds like a mouthful, suffice it to say you can waltz to this poem, more or less. Music and metre; preoccupations of ours. But here endeth the lesson. For a tea that’s not as it was, here’s a poem that breaks all its own -and Hardy’s -rules.