Personal Choice 2 (198)

In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’


I

Only a man harrowing clods

In a slow silent walk

With an old horse that stumbles and nods

Half asleep as they stalk.


II

Only thin smoke without flame

From the heaps of couch-grass;

Yet this will go onward the same

Though Dynasties pass.


III

Yonder a maid and her wight

Come whispering by:

War’s annals will cloud into night

Ere their story die.



Afterwards


When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,

And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,

Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,

"He was a man who used to notice such things"?


If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,

The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight

Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,

"To him this must have been a familiar sight."


If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,

When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,

One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should

come to no harm,

But he could do little for them; and now he is gone."


If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at

the door,

Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,

Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,

"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?


And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,

And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,

Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,

"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things?"



Heredity


I am the family face;

Flesh perishes, I live on,

Projecting trait and trace

Through time to times anon,

And leaping from place to place

Over oblivion.


The years-heired feature that can

In curve and voice and eye

Despise the human span

Of durance--that is I;

The eternal thing in man,

That heeds no call to die.


Thomas Hardy




Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, including the poetry of William Wordsworth. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain, such as those from his native Southwest England. While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, he gained fame as the author of novels. Hardy's poetry was acclaimed by younger poets (particularly the Georgians) who viewed him as a mentor. After his death his poems were lauded by Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin.


The supreme influence on all my work, Hardy woke in me my own voice, something after his own earlier and then distinctly my own. I still regard his poetry and prose as the very highest achievement in our western canon and Tess of the d'Urbervilles the greatest of our novels.

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