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.
First or Last (Song)
If grief come early Joy comes late, If joy come early Grief will wait; Aye, my dear and tender!
Wise ones joy them early While the cheeks are red, Banish grief till surly Time has dulled their dread.
And joy being ours Ere youth has flown, The later hours May find us gone; Aye, my dear and tender!