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Transcribed from the 1919 Macmillan and Co. “Wessex Poems and Other
Verses; Poems of the Past and the Present” edition by David Price, email
[email protected]





WESSEX POEMS AND
OTHER VERSES


* * * * *

BY
THOMAS HARDY

* * * * *

* * * * *

* * * * *

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON
1919

* * * * *

COPYRIGHT

“_Wessex Poems_”: _First Edition_, _Crown_ 8vo, 1898. _New Edition_
1903.
_First Pocket Edition June_ 1907. _Reprinted January_ 1909, 1913

“_Poems_, _Past and Present_”: _First edition_ 1901 (dated 1902)
_Second Edition_ 1903. _First Pocket Edition June_ 1907
_Reprinted January_ 1908, 1913, 1918, 1919

* * * * *




PREFACE TO WESSEX POEMS


OF the miscellaneous collection of verse that follows, only four pieces
have been published, though many were written long ago, and other partly
written. In some few cases the verses were turned into prose and printed
as such, it having been unanticipated at that time that they might see
the light.

Whenever an ancient and legitimate word of the district, for which there
was no equivalent in received English, suggested itself as the most
natural, nearest, and often only expression of a thought, it has been
made use of, on what seemed good grounds.

The pieces are in a large degree dramatic or personative in conception;
and this even where they are not obviously so.

The dates attached to some of the poems do not apply to the rough
sketches given in illustration, which have been recently made, and, as
may be surmised, are inserted for personal and local reasons rather than
for their intrinsic qualities.

T. H.

_September_ 1898.




CONTENTS

PAGE
THE TEMPORARY THE ALL 1
AMABEL 4
HAP 7
“IN VISION I ROAMED” 9
AT A BRIDAL 11
POSTPONEMENT 13
A CONFESSION TO A FRIEND IN TROUBLE 15
NEUTRAL TONES 17
SHE 19
HER INITIALS 21
HER DILEMMA 23
REVULSION 27
SHE, TO HIM, I. 31
,, ,, II. 33
,, ,, III. 35
,, ,, IV. 37
DITTY 39
THE SERGEANT’S SONG 43
VALENCIENNES 45
SAN SEBASTIAN 51
THE STRANGER’S SONG 59
THE BURGHERS 61
LEIPZIG 67
THE PEASANT’S CONFESSION 79
THE ALARM 91
HER DEATH AND AFTER 103
THE DANCE AT THE PHŒNIX 115
THE CASTERBRIDGE CAPTAINS 125
A SIGN-SEEKER 129
MY CICELY 133
HER IMMORTALITY 143
THE IVY-WIFE 147
A MEETING WITH DESPAIR 149
UNKNOWING 153
FRIENDS BEYOND 155
TO OUTER NATURE 159
THOUGHTS OF PHENA 163
MIDDLE-AGE ENTHUSIASMS 167
IN A WOOD 169
TO A LADY 173
TO AN ORPHAN CHILD 175
NATURE’S QUESTIONING 177
THE IMPERCIPIENT 181
AT AN INN 187
THE SLOW NATURE 191
IN A EWELEAZE NEAR WEATHERBURY 195
THE FIRE AT TRANTER SWEATLEY’S 201
HEIRESS AND ARCHITECT 211
THE TWO MEN 217
LINES 223
“I LOOK INTO MY GLASS” 227

[Picture: Sketch of tower with sun-dial]




THE TEMPORARY THE ALL


CHANGE and chancefulness in my flowering youthtime,
Set me sun by sun near to one unchosen;
Wrought us fellow-like, and despite divergence,
Friends interlinked us.

“Cherish him can I while the true one forthcome—
Come the rich fulfiller of my prevision;
Life is roomy yet, and the odds unbounded.”
So self-communed I.

Thwart my wistful way did a damsel saunter,
Fair, the while unformed to be all-eclipsing;
“Maiden meet,” held I, “till arise my forefelt
Wonder of women.”

Long a visioned hermitage deep desiring,
Tenements uncouth I was fain to house in;
“Let such lodging be for a breath-while,” thought I,
“Soon a more seemly.

“Then, high handiwork will I make my life-deed,
Truth and Light outshow; but the ripe time pending,
Intermissive aim at the thing sufficeth.”
Thus I . . . But lo, me!

Mistress, friend, place, aims to be bettered straightway,
Bettered not has Fate or my hand’s achieving;
Sole the showance those of my onward earth-track—
Never transcended!




AMABEL


I MARKED her ruined hues,
Her custom-straitened views,
And asked, “Can there indwell
My Amabel?”

I looked upon her gown,
Once rose, now earthen brown;
The change was like the knell
Of Amabel.

Her step’s mechanic ways
Had lost the life of May’s;
Her laugh, once sweet in swell,
Spoilt Amabel.

I mused: “Who sings the strain
I sang ere warmth did wane?
Who thinks its numbers spell
His Amabel?”—

Knowing that, though Love cease,
Love’s race shows undecrease;
All find in dorp or dell
An Amabel.

—I felt that I could creep
To some housetop, and weep,
That Time the tyrant fell
Ruled Amabel!

I said (the while I sighed
That love like ours had died),
“Fond things I’ll no more tell
To Amabel,

“But leave her to her fate,
And fling across the gate,
‘Till the Last Trump, farewell,
O Amabel!’”

1865.

[Picture: Sketch of hour-glass]




HAP


IF but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”

Then would I bear, and clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
—Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan . . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

1866.




“IN VISION I ROAMED”
TO —


IN vision I roamed the flashing Firmament,
So fierce in blazon that the Night waxed wan,
As though with an awed sense of such ostent;
And as I thought my spirit ranged on and on

In footless traverse through ghast heights of sky,
To the last chambers of the monstrous Dome,
Where stars the brightest here to darkness die:
Then, any spot on our own Earth seemed Home!

And the sick grief that you were far away
Grew pleasant thankfulness that you were near?
Who might have been, set on some outstep sphere,
Less than a Want to me, as day by day
I lived unware, uncaring all that lay
Locked in that Universe taciturn and drear.

1866.




AT A BRIDAL
TO —


WHEN you paced forth, to wait maternity,
A dream of other offspring held my mind,
Compounded of us twain as Love designed;
Rare forms, that corporate now will never be!

Should I, too, wed as slave to Mode’s decree,
And each thus found apart, of false desire,
A stolid line, whom no high aims will fire
As had fired ours could ever have mingled we;

And, grieved that lives so matched should mis-compose,
Each mourn the double waste; and question dare
To the Great Dame whence incarnation flows.
Why those high-purposed children never were:
What will she answer? That she does not care
If the race all such sovereign types unknows.

1866.




POSTPONEMENT


SNOW-BOUND in woodland, a mournful word,
Dropt now and then from the bill of a bird,
Reached me on wind-wafts; and thus I heard,
Wearily waiting:—

“I planned her a nest in a leafless tree,
But the passers eyed and twitted me,
And said: ‘How reckless a bird is he,
Cheerily mating!’

“Fear-filled, I stayed me till summer-tide,
In lewth of leaves to throne her bride;
But alas! her love for me waned and died,
Wearily waiting.

“Ah, had I been like some I see,
Born to an evergreen nesting-tree,
None had eyed and twitted me,
Cheerily mating!”

1866.




A CONFESSION TO A FRIEND IN TROUBLE


YOUR troubles shrink not, though I feel them less
Here, far away, than when I tarried near;
I even smile old smiles—with listlessness—
Yet smiles they are, not ghastly mockeries mere.

A thought too strange to house within my brain
Haunting its outer precincts I discern:
—_That I will not show zeal again to learn_
_Your griefs_, _and sharing them_, _renew my pain_ . . .

It goes, like murky bird or buccaneer
That shapes its lawless figure on the main,
And each new impulse tends to make outflee
The unseemly instinct that had lodgment here;
Yet, comrade old, can bitterer knowledge be
Than that, though banned, such instinct was in me!

1866.




NEUTRAL TONES


WE stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro—
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing . . .

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

1867.

[Picture: Sketch of church with person outside wall]




SHE
AT HIS FUNERAL


THEY bear him to his resting-place—
In slow procession sweeping by;
I follow at a stranger’s space;
His kindred they, his sweetheart I.
Unchanged my gown of garish dye,
Though sable-sad is their attire;
But they stand round with griefless eye,
Whilst my regret consumes like fire!

187–.

[Picture: Sketch of open book with two letters hand-written on left-hand
page]




HER INITIALS


UPON a poet’s page I wrote
Of old two letters of her name;
Part seemed she of the effulgent thought
Whence that high singer’s rapture came.
—When now I turn the leaf the same
Immortal light illumes the lay,
But from the letters of her name
The radiance has died away!

1869.




HER DILEMMA
(IN — CHURCH)


THE two were silent in a sunless church,
Whose mildewed walls, uneven paving-stones,
And wasted carvings passed antique research;
And nothing broke the clock’s dull monotones.

Leaning against a wormy poppy-head,
So wan and worn that he could scarcely stand,
—For he was soon to die,—he softly said,
“Tell me you love me!”—holding hard her hand.

She would have given a world to breathe “yes” truly,
So much his life seemed handing on her mind,
And hence she lied, her heart persuaded throughly
’Twas worth her soul to be a moment kind.

But the sad need thereof, his nearing death,
So mocked humanity that she shamed to prize
A world conditioned thus, or care for breath
Where Nature such dilemmas could devise.

1866.

[Picture: Sketch of two people in a church]




REVULSION


THOUGH I waste watches framing words to fetter
Some spirit to mine own in clasp and kiss,
Out of the night there looms a sense ’twere better
To fail obtaining whom one fails to miss.

For winning love we win the risk of losing,
And losing love is as one’s life were riven;
It cuts like contumely and keen ill-using
To cede what was superfluously given.

Let me then feel no more the fateful thrilling
That devastates the love-worn wooer’s frame,
The hot ado of fevered hopes, the chilling
That agonizes disappointed aim!
So may I live no junctive law fulfilling,
And my heart’s table bear no woman’s name.

1866.

[Picture: Sketch of person walking long path to building on hill]




SHE, TO HIM
I


WHEN you shall see me in the toils of Time,
My lauded beauties carried off from me,
My eyes no longer stars as in their prime,
My name forgot of Maiden Fair and Free;

When in your being heart concedes to mind,
And judgment, though you scarce its process know,
Recalls the excellencies I once enshrined,
And you are irked that they have withered so:

Remembering that with me lies not the blame,
That Sportsman Time but rears his brood to kill,
Knowing me in my soul the very same—
One who would die to spare you touch of ill!—
Will you not grant to old affection’s claim
The hand of friendship down Life’s sunless hill?

1866.




SHE, TO HIM
II


PERHAPS, long hence, when I have passed away,
Some other’s feature, accent, thought like mine,
Will carry you back to what I used to say,
And bring some memory of your love’s decline.

Then you may pause awhile and think, “Poor jade!”
And yield a sigh to me—as ample due,
Not as the tittle of a debt unpaid
To one who could resign her all to you—

And thus reflecting, you will never see
That your thin thought, in two small words conveyed,
Was no such fleeting phantom-thought to me,
But the Whole Life wherein my part was played;
And you amid its fitful masquerade
A Thought—as I in yours but seem to be.

1866.




SHE, TO HIM
III


I WILL be faithful to thee; aye, I will!
And Death shall choose me with a wondering eye
That he did not discern and domicile
One his by right ever since that last Good-bye!

I have no care for friends, or kin, or prime
Of manhood who deal gently with me here;
Amid the happy people of my time
Who work their love’s fulfilment, I appear

Numb as a vane that cankers on its point,
True to the wind that kissed ere canker came;
Despised by souls of Now, who would disjoint
The mind from memory, and make Life all aim,

My old dexterities of hue quite gone,
And nothing left for Love to look upon.

1866.




SHE, TO HIM
IV


This love puts all humanity from me;
I can but maledict her, pray her dead,
For giving love and getting love of thee—
Feeding a heart that else mine own had fed!

How much I love I know not, life not known,
Save as some unit I would add love by;
But this I know, my being is but thine own—
Fused from its separateness by ecstasy.

And thus I grasp thy amplitudes, of her
Ungrasped, though helped by nigh-regarding eyes;
Canst thou then hate me as an envier
Who see unrecked what I so dearly prize?
Believe me, Lost One, Love is lovelier
The more it shapes its moan in selfish-wise.

1866.




DITTY
(E. L G.)


BENEATH a knap where flown
Nestlings play,
Within walls of weathered stone,
Far away
From the files of formal houses,
By the bough the firstling browses,
Lives a Sweet: no merchants meet,
No man barters, no man sells
Where she dwells.

Upon that fabric fair
“Here is she!”
Seems written everywhere
Unto me.
But to friends and nodding neighbours,
Fellow-wights in lot and labours,
Who descry the times as I,
No such lucid legend tells
Where she dwells.

Should I lapse to what I was
Ere we met;
(Such can not be, but because
Some forget
Let me feign it)—none would notice
That where she I know by rote is
Spread a strange and withering change,
Like a drying of the wells
Where she dwells.

To feel I might have kissed—
Loved as true—
Otherwhere, nor Mine have missed
My life through.
Had I never wandered near her,
Is a smart severe—severer
In the thought that she is nought,
Even as I, beyond the dells
Where she dwells.

And Devotion droops her glance
To recall
What bond-servants of Chance
We are all.
I but found her in that, going
On my errant path unknowing,
I did not out-skirt the spot
That no spot on earth excels,
—Where she dwells!

1870.

[Picture: Sketch of man in military dress]




THE SERGEANT’S SONG
(1803)


WHEN Lawyers strive to heal a breach,
And Parsons practise what they preach;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lorum,
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay!

When Justices hold equal scales,
And Rogues are only found in jails;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, &c.

When Rich Men find their wealth a curse,
And fill therewith the Poor Man’s purse;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, &c.

When Husbands with their Wives agree,
And Maids won’t wed from modesty;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, tol-tol-lorum,
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay!

1878.

_Published in_ “_The Trumpet-Major_,” 1880.

[Picture: Sketch of cannons overlooking a town]




VALENCIENNES
(1793)


BY CORP’L TULLIDGE: _see_ “_The Trumpet-Major_”
IN MEMORY OF S. C. (PENSIONER). DIED 184–

WE trenched, we trumpeted and drummed,
And from our mortars tons of iron hummed
Ath’art the ditch, the month we bombed
The Town o’ Valencieën.

’Twas in the June o’ Ninety-dree
(The Duke o’ Yark our then Commander been)
The German Legion, Guards, and we
Laid siege to Valencieën.

This was the first time in the war
That French and English spilled each other’s gore;
—Few dreamt how far would roll the roar
Begun at Valencieën!

’Twas said that we’d no business there
A-topperèn the French for disagreën;
However, that’s not my affair—
We were at Valencieën.

Such snocks and slats, since war began
Never knew raw recruit or veteran:
Stone-deaf therence went many a man
Who served at Valencieën.

Into the streets, ath’art the sky,
A hundred thousand balls and bombs were fleën;
And harmless townsfolk fell to die
Each hour at Valencieën!

And, sweatèn wi’ the bombardiers,
A shell was slent to shards anighst my ears:
—’Twas nigh the end of hopes and fears
For me at Valencieën!

They bore my wownded frame to camp,
And shut my gapèn skull, and washed en cleän,
And jined en wi’ a zilver clamp
Thik night at Valencieën.

“We’ve fetched en back to quick from dead;
But never more on earth while rose is red
Will drum rouse Corpel!” Doctor said
O’ me at Valencieën.

’Twer true. No voice o’ friend or foe
Can reach me now, or any livèn beën;
And little have I power to know
Since then at Valencieën!

I never hear the zummer hums
O’ bees; and don’ know when the cuckoo comes;
But night and day I hear the bombs
We threw at Valencieën . . .

As for the Duke o’ Yark in war,
There be some volk whose judgment o’ en is mean;
But this I say—a was not far
From great at Valencieën.

O’ wild wet nights, when all seems sad,
My wownds come back, as though new wownds I’d had;
But yet—at times I’m sort o’ glad
I fout at Valencieën.

Well: Heaven wi’ its jasper halls
Is now the on’y Town I care to be in . . .
Good Lord, if Nick should bomb the walls
As we did Valencieën!

1878–1897.




SAN SEBASTIAN
(August 1813)


WITH THOUGHTS OF SERGEANT M— (PENSIONER), WHO DIED 185–.

“WHY, Sergeant, stray on the Ivel Way,
As though at home there were spectres rife?
From first to last ’twas a proud career!
And your sunny years with a gracious wife
Have brought you a daughter dear.

“I watched her to-day; a more comely maid,
As she danced in her muslin bowed with blue,
Round a Hintock maypole never gayed.”
—“Aye, aye; I watched her this day, too,
As it happens,” the Sergeant said.

“My daughter is now,” he again began,
“Of just such an age as one I knew
When we of the Line and Forlorn-hope van,
On an August morning—a chosen few—
Stormed San Sebastian.

“She’s a score less three; so about was _she_—
The maiden I wronged in Peninsular days . . .
You may prate of your prowess in lusty times,
But as years gnaw inward you blink your bays,
And see too well your crimes!

“We’d stormed it at night, by the vlanker-light
Of burning towers, and the mortar’s boom:
We’d topped the breach; but had failed to stay,
For our files were misled by the baffling gloom;
And we said we’d storm by day.

[Picture: Sketch of mountain]

“So, out of the trenches, with features set,
On that hot, still morning, in measured pace,
Our column climbed; climbed higher yet,
Past the fauss’bray, scarp, up the curtain-face,
And along the parapet.

“From the battened hornwork the cannoneers
Hove crashing balls of iron fire;
On the shaking gap mount the volunteers
In files, and as they mount expire
Amid curses, groans, and cheers.

“Five hours did we storm, five hours re-form,
As Death cooled those hot blood pricked on;
Till our cause was helped by a woe within:
They swayed from the summit we’d leapt upon,
And madly we entered in.

“On end for plunder, ’mid rain and thunder
That burst with the lull of our cannonade,
We vamped the streets in the stifling air—
Our hunger unsoothed, our thirst unstayed—
And ransacked the buildings there.

“Down the stony steps of the house-fronts white
We rolled rich puncheons of Spanish grape,
Till at length, with the fire of the wine alight,
I saw at a doorway a fair fresh shape—
A woman, a sylph, or sprite.

“Afeard she fled, and with heated head
I pursued to the chamber she called her own;
—When might is right no qualms deter,
And having her helpless and alone
I wreaked my will on her.

“She raised her beseeching eyes to me,
And I heard the words of prayer she sent
In her own soft language . . . Seemingly
I copied those eyes for my punishment
In begetting the girl you see!


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