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.
The Caged Goldfinch
Within a churchyard, on a recent grave, I saw a little cage That jailed a goldfinch. All was silence save Its hops from stage to stage.
There was inquiry in its wistful eye, And once it tried to sing; Of him or her who placed it there, and why, No one knew anything.