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HARDY, Thomas


The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate 

    When Frost was spectre-gray,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

    The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

    Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

    Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be

    The Century’s corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

    The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

    Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth

    Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among

    The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

    Of joy illimited;

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

    In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

    Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings

    Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things

    Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through

    His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

    And I was unaware.


She, to Him.

When you shall see me lined by tool 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?


A Sign-Seeker

I mark the months in liveries dank and dry,

The day-tides many-shaped and hued;

I see the nightfall shades subtrude,

And hear the monotonous hours clang negligently by.

I view the evening bonfires of the sun

On hills where morning rains have hissed;

The eyeless countenance of the mist

Pallidly rising when the summer droughts are done.

I have seen the lightning-blade, the leaping star,

The caldrons of the sea in storm,

Have felt the earthquake’s lifting arm,

And trodden where abysmal fires and snowcones are.

I learn to prophesy the hid eclipse,

The coming of eccentric orbs;

To mete the dust the sky absorbs,

To weigh the sun, and fix the hour each planet dips.

I witness fellow earth-men surge and strive;

Assemblies meet, and throb, and part;

Death’s soothing finger, sorrow’s smart;

—All the vast various moils that mean a world alive.

But that I fain would wot of shuns my sense—

Those sights of which old prophets tell,

Those signs the general word so well,

Vouchsafed to their unheed, denied my watchings tense.

In graveyard green, behind his monument

To glimpse a phantom parent, friend,

Wearing his smile, and “Not the end!”

Outbreathing softly: that were blest enlightenment;

Or, if a dead Love’s lips, whom dreams reveal

When midnight imps of King Decay

Delve sly to solve me back to clay,

Should leave some print to prove her spirit-kisses real;

Or, when Earth’s Frail lie bleeding of her Strong,

If some Recorder, as in Writ,

Near to the weary scene should flit

And drop one plume as pledge that Heaven inscrolls the wrong.

—There are who, rapt to heights of trancéd trust,

These tokens claim to feel and see,

Read radiant hints of times to be—

Of heart to heart returning after dust to dust.

Such scope is granted not my powers indign…

I have lain in dead men’s beds, have walked

The tombs of those with whom I’d talked,

Called many a gone and goodly one to shape a sign,

And panted for response. But none replies;

No warnings loom, nor whisperings

To open out my limitings,

And Nescience mutely muses: When a man falls he lies.