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Poems of the Past and the Present by Thomas Hardy

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She feels who milks my favourite cow,
And takes my place at churn!


It wears me out to think of it,
To think of it;
I cannot bear my fate as writ,
I'd have my life unbe;
Would turn my memory to a blot,
Make every relic of me rot,
My doings be as they were not,
And what they've brought to me!



He bends his travel-tarnished feet
To where she wastes in clay:
From day-dawn until eve he fares
Along the wintry way;
From day-dawn until eve repairs
Unto her mound to pray.


"Are these the gravestone shapes that meet
My forward-straining view?
Or forms that cross a window-blind
In circle, knot, and queue:
Gay forms, that cross and whirl and wind
To music throbbing through?" -


"The Keeper of the Field of Tombs
Dwells by its gateway-pier;
He celebrates with feast and dance
His daughter's twentieth year:
He celebrates with wine of France
The birthday of his dear." -


"The gates are shut when evening glooms:
Lay down your wreath, sad wight;
To-morrow is a time more fit
For placing flowers aright:
The morning is the time for it;
Come, wake with us to-night!" -


He grounds his wreath, and enters in,
And sits, and shares their cheer. -
"I fain would foot with you, young man,
Before all others here;
I fain would foot it for a span
With such a cavalier!"


She coaxes, clasps, nor fails to win
His first-unwilling hand:
The merry music strikes its staves,
The dancers quickly band;
And with the damsel of the graves
He duly takes his stand.


"You dance divinely, stranger swain,
Such grace I've never known.
O longer stay! Breathe not adieu
And leave me here alone!
O longer stay: to her be true
Whose heart is all your own!" -


"I mark a phantom through the pane,
That beckons in despair,
Its mouth all drawn with heavy moan -
Her to whom once I sware!" -
"Nay; 'tis the lately carven stone
Of some strange girl laid there!" -


"I see white flowers upon the floor
Betrodden to a clot;
My wreath were they?"--"Nay; love me much,
Swear you'll forget me not!
'Twas but a wreath! Full many such
Are brought here and forgot."

* * *


The watches of the night grow hoar,
He rises ere the sun;
"Now could I kill thee here!" he says,
"For winning me from one
Who ever in her living days
Was pure as cloistered nun!"


She cowers, and he takes his track
Afar for many a mile,
For evermore to be apart
From her who could beguile
His senses by her burning heart,
And win his love awhile.


A year: and he is travelling back
To her who wastes in clay;
From day-dawn until eve he fares
Along the wintry way,
From day-dawn until eve repairs
Unto her mound to pray.


And there he sets him to fulfil
His frustrate first intent:
And lay upon her bed, at last,
The offering earlier meant:
When, on his stooping figure, ghast
And haggard eyes are bent.


"O surely for a little while
You can be kind to me!
For do you love her, do you hate,
She knows not--cares not she:
Only the living feel the weight
Of loveless misery!


"I own my sin; I've paid its cost,
Being outcast, shamed, and bare:
I give you daily my whole heart,
Your babe my tender care,
I pour you prayers; and aye to part
Is more than I can bear!"


He turns--unpitying, passion-tossed;
"I know you not!" he cries,
"Nor know your child. I knew this maid,
But she's in Paradise!"
And swiftly in the winter shade
He breaks from her and flies.


"Thou shalt be--Nothing."--OMAR KHAYYAM.
"Tombless, with no remembrance."--W. SHAKESPEARE.

Dead shalt thou lie; and nought
Be told of thee or thought,
For thou hast plucked not of the Muses' tree:
And even in Hades' halls
Amidst thy fellow-thralls
No friendly shade thy shade shall company!

(After passing Sirmione, April 1887.)

Sirmio, thou dearest dear of strands
That Neptune strokes in lake and sea,
With what high joy from stranger lands
Doth thy old friend set foot on thee!
Yea, barely seems it true to me
That no Bithynia holds me now,
But calmly and assuringly
Around me stretchest homely Thou.

Is there a scene more sweet than when
Our clinging cares are undercast,
And, worn by alien moils and men,
The long untrodden sill repassed,
We press the pined for couch at last,
And find a full repayment there?
Then hail, sweet Sirmio; thou that wast,
And art, mine own unrivalled Fair!


Knight, a true sister-love
This heart retains;
Ask me no other love,
That way lie pains!

Calm must I view thee come,
Calm see thee go;
Tale-telling tears of thine
I must not know!


I scanned her picture dreaming,
Till each dear line and hue
Was imaged, to my seeming,
As if it lived anew.

Her lips began to borrow
Their former wondrous smile;
Her fair eyes, faint with sorrow,
Grew sparkling as erstwhile.

Such tears as often ran not
Ran then, my love, for thee;
And O, believe I cannot
That thou are lost to me!


Child, were I king, I'd yield my royal rule,
My chariot, sceptre, vassal-service due,
My crown, my porphyry-basined waters cool,
My fleets, whereto the sea is but a pool,
For a glance from you!

Love, were I God, the earth and its heaving airs,
Angels, the demons abject under me,
Vast chaos with its teeming womby lairs,
Time, space, all would I give--aye, upper spheres,
For a kiss from thee!


Here's one in whom Nature feared--faint at such vying -
Eclipse while he lived, and decease at his dying.



I have lived with shades so long,
And talked to them so oft,
Since forth from cot and croft
I went mankind among,
That sometimes they
In their dim style
Will pause awhile
To hear my say;


And take me by the hand,
And lead me through their rooms
In the To-be, where Dooms
Half-wove and shapeless stand:
And show from there
The dwindled dust
And rot and rust
Of things that were.


"Now turn," spake they to me
One day: "Look whence we came,
And signify his name
Who gazes thence at thee." -
--"Nor name nor race
Know I, or can,"
I said, "Of man
So commonplace.


"He moves me not at all;
I note no ray or jot
Of rareness in his lot,
Or star exceptional.
Into the dim
Dead throngs around
He'll sink, nor sound
Be left of him."


"Yet," said they, "his frail speech,
Hath accents pitched like thine -
Thy mould and his define
A likeness each to each -
But go! Deep pain
Alas, would be
His name to thee,
And told in vain!"

Feb. 2, 1899.


"O memory, where is now my youth,
Who used to say that life was truth?"

"I saw him in a crumbled cot
Beneath a tottering tree;
That he as phantom lingers there
Is only known to me."

"O Memory, where is now my joy,
Who lived with me in sweet employ?"

"I saw him in gaunt gardens lone,
Where laughter used to be;
That he as phantom wanders there
Is known to none but me."

"O Memory, where is now my hope,
Who charged with deeds my skill and scope?"

"I saw her in a tomb of tomes,
Where dreams are wont to be;
That she as spectre haunteth there
Is only known to me."

"O Memory, where is now my faith,
One time a champion, now a wraith?"

"I saw her in a ravaged aisle,
Bowed down on bended knee;
That her poor ghost outflickers there
Is known to none but me."

"O Memory, where is now my love,
That rayed me as a god above?"

"I saw him by an ageing shape
Where beauty used to be;
That his fond phantom lingers there
Is only known to me."


Long have I framed weak phantasies of Thee,
O Willer masked and dumb!
Who makest Life become, -
As though by labouring all-unknowingly,
Like one whom reveries numb.

How much of consciousness informs Thy will
Thy biddings, as if blind,
Of death-inducing kind,
Nought shows to us ephemeral ones who fill
But moments in Thy mind.

Perhaps Thy ancient rote-restricted ways
Thy ripening rule transcends;
That listless effort tends
To grow percipient with advance of days,
And with percipience mends.

For, in unwonted purlieus, far and nigh,
At whiles or short or long,
May be discerned a wrong
Dying as of self-slaughter; whereat I
Would raise my voice in song.


{1} The "Race" is the turbulent sea-area off the Bill of Portland,
where contrary tides meet.

{2} Pronounce "Loddy."

{3} On a lonely table-land above the Vale of Blackmore, between
High-Stoy and Bubb-Down hills, and commanding in clear weather views
that extend from the English to the Bristol Channel, stands a pillar,
apparently mediaeval, called Cross-and-Hand or Christ-in-Hand. Among
other stories of its origin a local tradition preserves the one here

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