Hardy's works take place in Wessex (named after the Anglo-Saxon kingdom which existed in the area). One of his distinctive achievements is to have captured the cultural atmosphere of rural Wessex in the golden epoch that existed just before the coming of the railways and the agricultural and industrial revolutions that were to change the English countryside for ever.
His works are often deeply pessimistic and full of bitter irony, in sharp contrast to the prevalent Victorian optimism.
Will these be always great things, Great things to me? ... Let it befall that One will call, "Soul, I have need of thee:" What then? Joy-jaunts, impassioned flings, Love, and its ecstasy, Will always have been great things, Great things to me!
Love is, yea, a great thing, A great thing to me, When, having drawn across the lawn In darkness silently, A figure flits like one a-wing Out from the nearest tree: O love is, yes, a great thing, A great thing to me!
The dance it is a great thing, A great thing to me, With candles lit and partners fit For night-long revelry; And going home when day-dawning Peeps pale upon the lea: O dancing is a great thing, A great thing to me!