Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

He Never Expected Much

Well, World, you have kept faith with me, 
Kept faith with me; 
Upon the whole you have proved to be 
Much as you said you were. 
Since as a child I used to lie 
Upon the leaze and watch the sky, 
Never, I own, expected I 
That life would all be fair. 

‘Twas then you said, and since have said, 
Times since have said, 
In that mysterious voice you shed 
From clouds and hills around: 
“Many have loved me desperately, 
Many with smooth serenity, 
While some have shown contempt of me 
Till they dropped underground. 

“I do not promise overmuch, 
Child; overmuch; 
Just neutral-tinted haps and such,” 
You said to minds like mine. 
Wise warning for your credit’s sake! 
Which I for one failed not to take, 
And hence could stem such strain and ache 
As each year might assign. 

The Convergence of the Twain

(Lines on the loss of the “Titanic”)

            In a solitude of the sea 
            Deep from human vanity, 
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she. 

            Steel chambers, late the pyres 
            Of her salamandrine fires, 
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres. 

            Over the mirrors meant 
            To glass the opulent 
The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent. 

            Jewels in joy designed 
            To ravish the sensuous mind 
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind. 

            Dim moon-eyed fishes near 
            Gaze at the gilded gear 
And query: “What does this vaingloriousness down here?” 

            Well: while was fashioning 
            This creature of cleaving wing, 
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything 

            Prepared a sinister mate 
            For her — so gaily great — 
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate. 

            And as the smart ship grew 
            In stature, grace, and hue, 
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too. 

            Alien they seemed to be; 
            No mortal eye could see 
The intimate welding of their later history, 

            Or sign that they were bent 
            By paths coincident 
On being anon twin halves of one august event, 

            Till the Spinner of the Years 
            Said “Now!” And each one hears, 
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

At Castle Boterel

As I drive to the junction of lane and highway,
And the drizzle bedrenches the waggonette,
I look behind at the fading byway,
And see on its slope, now glistening wet,
Distinctly yet 

Myself and a girlish form benighted
In dry March weather. We climb the road
Beside a chaise. We had just alighted
To ease the sturdy pony’s load
When he sighed and slowed. 

What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of
Matters not much, nor to what it led, ?
Something that life will not be balked of
Without rude reason till hope is dead,
And feeling fled. 

It filled but a minute. But was there ever
A time of such quality, since or before,
In that hill’s story ? To one mind never,
Though it has been climbed, foot-swift, foot-sore,
By thousands more.

Primaeval rocks form the road’s steep border,
And much have they faced there, first and last,
Of the transitory in Earth’s long order ;
But what they record in colour and cast
Is—that we two passed.

And to me, though Time’s unflinching rigour,
In mindless rote, has ruled from sight
The substance now, one phantom figure
   Remains on the slope, as when that night
         Saw us alight. 

I look and see it there, shrinking, shrinking,
I look back at it amid the rain
For the very last time; for my sand is sinking,
And I shall traverse old love’s domain
Never again.

A Broken Appointment

You did not come, 
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb,— 
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there 
Than that I thus found lacking in your make 
That high compassion which can overbear 
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake 
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum, 
You did not come. 

You love not me, 
And love alone can lend you loyalty; 
-–I know and knew it. But, unto the store 
Of human deeds divine in all but name, 
Was it not worth a little hour or more 
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came 
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be 
You love not me? 

I Look into My Glass

I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, “Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!”

For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.

Drummer Hodge

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined — just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the drummer never knew —
Fresh from his Wessex home —
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally. 

Rome at the Pyramid of Cestius Near the Graves of Shelley and Keats

         Who, then, was Cestius, 
         And what is he to me? – 
Amid thick thoughts and memories multitudinous 
         One thought alone brings he. 

         I can recall no word 
         Of anything he did; 
For me he is a man who died and was interred 
         To leave a pyramid 

         Whose purpose was exprest 
         Not with its first design, 
Nor till, far down in Time, beside it found their rest 
         Two countrymen of mine. 

         Cestius in life, maybe, 
         Slew, breathed out threatening; 
I know not. This I know: in death all silently 
         He does a kindlier thing, 

         In beckoning pilgrim feet 
         With marble finger high 
To where, by shadowy wall and history-haunted street, 
         Those matchless singers lie . . . 

         —Say, then, he lived and died 
         That stones which bear his name 
Should mark, through Time, where two immortal Shades abide; 
         It is an ample fame. 

In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’

Only a man harrowing clods
    In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
    Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
    From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
    Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
    Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
    Ere their story die.

He Resolves to Say No More

O my soul, keep the rest unknown!
It is too like a sound of moan
When the charnel-eyed
Pale Horse has nighed:
Yea, none shall gather what I hide!

Why load men’s minds with more to bear
That bear already ails to spare?
From now alway
Till my last day
What I discern I will not say.

Let Time roll backward if it will;
(Magians who drive the midnight quill
With brain aglow
Can see it so,)
What I have learnt no man shall know.

And if my vision range beyond
The blinkered sight of souls in bond,
—By truth made free—
I’ll let all be,
And show to no man what I see.