The familiar historical division in the work of Thomas Hardy marks the striking shift the writer made from narrative, after the disappointing critical reception of Jude the Obscure (1895), to poetry, beginning with Wessex Poems (1898). But this division has the unfortunate effect of diminishing one of Hardy’s most abiding ethical and aesthetic concerns. From 1860 to 1928, in both the form and content of his novels and poems, Hardy consistently challenged the prevailing anthropocentricism of Victorian culture, and his target across this entire period was the series of zoological links and institutional disjunctions that characterized “the animal.” Moreover, Hardy’s retirement from novels has been characterized as a retreat, the writer presumably spending his evenings “wooing the Muse of Poetry” (Hammerton 20), as if Hardy had shrunk from the openly political nature of fi ction and shifted to the relative safety of poetry, with its neater, less confrontational, less expository compressions. Yet, precisely because he shifted his focus to poetry, Hardy got politically bolder; he took greater risks, not fewer. For he saw in this genre the opportunity to increase the formal pressure on the ethical concerns he had developed in his novels. In its tight, formal presentation, poetry could sharpen aesthetic realities that the novels had presented in looser, more expansive form.