Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Poet for Saturday Afternoon: Thomas Hardy

Last Saturday featured William Butler Yeats, the bright little ray of sunshine that he is. I confess a weakness for wistful, romantic poems. I have great fondness for quotidean meditations, but poetry is the food of love, or so says Fitzwilliam Darcy. So if it nourishes love, might not love nourish poetry (a fine stout love, perhaps).

Hardy is one of my favorite authors in both poetry and fiction. The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of my favorite novels, and I love his bitter and wistful poems. I've been reading several reviews of Clair Tomalin's new biography of Hardy, and I covet it desperately--almost as much as I covet a collection of Hardy's poems.

But until I have my heart's desires, a few poems for the heart, whether yours is twisted in knots, wistful in reflection, or broken into pieces.

Yes, I too am a bright little ray of sunshine!

I Said to Love.

I said to Love,
"It is not now as in old days
When men adored thee and thy ways
All else above;
Named thee the Boy, the Bright, the One
Who spread a heaven beneath the sun,"
I said to Love.

I said to him,
"We now know more of thee than then;
We were but weak in judgment when,
With hearts abrim,
We clamoured thee that thou would'st please
Inflict on us thine agonies,"
I said to him.

I said to Love,
"Thou art not young, thou art not fair,
No faery darts, no cherub air,
Nor swan, nor dove
Are thine; but features pitiless,
And iron daggers of distress,"
I said to Love.

"Depart then, Love! . . .
- Man's race shall end, dost threaten thou?
The age to come the man of now
Know nothing of? -
We fear not such a threat from thee;
We are too old in apathy!
Mankind shall cease.--So let it be,"
I said to Love.

Between Us Now

Between us now and here--
Two thrown together
Who are not wont to wear
Life's flushest feather--

Who see the scenes slide past,
The daytimes dimming fast,
Let there be truth at last,
Even if despair.

So thoroughly and long
Have you now known me,
So real in faith and strong
Have I now shown me,
That nothing needs disguise

Further in any wise,
Or asks or justifies
A guarded tongue.
Face unto face, then, say,

Eyes my own meeting,
Is your heart far away,
Or with mine beating?

When false things are brought low,
And swift things have grown slow,
Feigning like froth shall go,
Faith be for aye.

The Voice

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear?
Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.