Widely known as the author of such classic novels as The Return of the Native and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) was also a great poet. His lyricism, subtlety, depth, and variety have earned him a significant place in the ranks of modern English poets.
This modestly priced volume contains seventy of Hardy's finest poems, including "The Darkling Thrush," "Hap," "The Ruined Maid," "The Convergence of the Twain," "I Look Into My Glass," "Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?" and many others. These remarkable poems offer ample evidence of Hardy's intense perception and his peculiar power to express deep emotion. They also reflect his distinctive style, which fuses a reliance on traditional stanza formats and rhyme with a unique diction and imaginative power.
About the Author
Tragedy haunts the works of Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), whose fiction abounds in star-crossed lovers and other characters thwarted by fate or their own shortcomings. Hardy's outspoken criticism of Victorian society excited such profound controversy that the author abandoned fiction and published only poetry in the 20th century.
Date of Birth:June 2, 1840
Date of Death:January 11, 1928
Place of Birth:Higher Brockhampon, Dorset, England
Place of Death:Max Gate, Dorchester, England
Education:Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks
Read an Excerpt
By THOMAS HARDY
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1995 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
From Wessex Poems and Other Verses (1898)
If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: 'Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!'
Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.
But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
— Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. ...
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.
A Confession to a Friend in Trouble
Your troubles shrink not, though I feel them less
Here, far away, than when I tarried near;
I even smile old smiles — with listlessness —
Yet smiles they are, not ghastly mockeries mere.
A thought too strange to house within my brain
Haunting its outer precincts I discern:
— That I will not show zeal again to learn
Your griefs, and, sharing them, renew my pain. ...
It goes, like murky bird or buccaneer
That shapes its lawless figure on the main,
And each new impulse tends to make outflee
The unseemly instinct that had lodgment here;
Yet, comrade old, can bitterer knowledge be
Than that, though banned, such instinct was in me!
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
— They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing....
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.
Upon a poet's page I wrote
Of old two letters of her name;
Part seemed she of the effulgent thought
Whence that high singer's rapture came.
— When now I turn the leaf the same
Immortal light illumes the lay,
But from the letters of her name
The radiance has waned away!
With Thoughts of Sergeant M — (Pensioner), Who Died 185 —
'Why, Sergeant, stray on the Ivel Way,
As though at home there were spectres rife?
From first to last 'twas a proud career!
And your sunny years with a gracious wife
Have brought you a daughter dear.
'I watched her to-day; a more comely maid,
As she danced in her muslin bowed with blue,
Round a Hintock maypole never gayed.'
—'Aye, aye; I watched her this day, too,
As it happens,' the Sergeant said.
'My daughter is now,' he again began,
'Of just such an age as one I knew
When we of the Line, the Forlorn-hope van,
On an August morning — a chosen few —
Stormed San Sebastian.
'She's a score less three; so about was she —
The maiden I wronged in Peninsular days. ...
You may prate of your prowess in lusty times,
But as years gnaw inward you blink your bays,
And see too well your crimes!
'We'd stormed it at night, by the flapping light
Of burning towers, and the mortar's boom:
We'd topped the breach; but had failed to stay,
For our files were misled by the baffling gloom;
And we said we'd storm by day.
'So, out of the trenches, with features set,
On that hot, still morning, in measured pace,
Our column climbed; climbed higher yet,'
Passed the fauss'bray, scarp, up the curtain-face,
And along the parapet.
'From the batteried hornwork the cannoneers
Hove crashing balls of iron fire;
On the shaking gap mount the volunteers
In files, and as they mount expire
Amid curses, groans, and cheers.
'Five hours did we storm, five hours re-form,
As Death cooled those hot blood pricked on;
Till our cause was helped by a woe within:
They were blown from the summit we'd leapt upon,
And madly we entered in.
On end for plunder, 'mid rain and thunder
That burst with the lull of our cannonade,
We vamped the streets in the stifling air —
Our hunger unsoothed, our thirst unstayed —
And ransacked the buildings there.
'From the shady vaults of their walls of white
We rolled rich puncheons of Spanish grape,
Till at length, with the fire of the wine alight,
I saw at a doorway a fair fresh shape —
A woman, a sylph, or sprite.
'Afeard she fled, and with heated head
I pursued to the chamber she called her own;
— When might is right no qualms deter,
And having her helpless and alone
I wreaked my will on her.
'She raised her beseeching eyes to me,
And I heard the words of prayer she sent
In her own soft language. ... Fatefully
I copied those eyes for my punishment
In begetting the girl you see!
'So, to-day I stand with a God-set brand
Like Cain's, when he wandered from kindred's ken
I served through the war that made Europe free;
I wived me in peace-year. But, hid from men,
I bear that mark on me.
'Maybe we shape our offspring's guise
From fancy, or we know not what,
And that no deep impression dies, —
For the mother of my child is not
The mother of her eyes.
'And I nightly stray on the Ivel Way
As though at home there were spectres rife;
I delight me not in my proud career;
And 'tis coals of fire that a gracious wife
Should have brought me a daughter dear!'
(17 — )
The sun had wheeled from Grey's to Dammer's Crest,
And still I mused on that Thing imminent:
At length I sought the High-street to the West.
The level flare raked pane and pediment
And my wrecked face, and shaped my nearing friend
Like one of those the Furnace held unshent.
'I've news concerning her,' he said. 'Attend.
They fly to-night at the late moon's first gleam:
Watch with thy steel: two righteous thrusts will end
Her shameless visions and his passioned dream.
I'll watch with thee, to testify thy wrong —
To aid, maybe. — Law consecrates the scheme.'
I started, and we paced the flags along
Till I replied: 'Since it has come to this
I'11 do it! But alone. I can be strong.'
Three hours past Curfew, when the Froom's mild hiss
Reigned sole, undulled by whirr of merchandize,
From Pummery-Tout to where the Gibbet is,
I crossed my pleasaunce hard by Glyd'path Rise,
And stood beneath the wall. Eleven strokes went,
And to the door they came, contrariwise,
And met in clasp so close I had but bent
My lifted blade on either to have let
Their two souls loose upon the firmament.
But something held my arm. 'A moment yet
As pray-time ere you wantons die!' I said;
And then they saw me. Swift her gaze was set
With eye and cry of love illimited
Upon her Heart-king. Never upon me
Had she thrown look of love so thoroughsped! ...
At once she flung her faint form shieldingly
On his, against the vengeance of my vows;
The which overruling, her shape shielded he.
Blanked by such love, I stood as in a drowse,
And the slow moon edged from the upland nigh,
My sad thoughts moving thuswise: 'I may house
And I may husband her, yet what am I
But licensed tyrant to this bonded pair?
Says Charity, Do as ye would be done by.' ...
Hurling my iron to the bushes there,
I bade them stay. And, as if brain and breast
Were passive, they walked with me to the stair.
Inside the house none watched; and on we prest
Before a mirror, in whose gleam I read
Her beauty, his, — and mine own mien unblest;
Till at her room I turned. 'Madam,' I said,
'Have you the wherewithal for this? Pray speak.
Love fills no cupboard. You'll need daily bread.'
'We've nothing, sire,' she lipped; 'and nothing seek
Twere base in me to rob my lord unware;
Our hands will earn a pittance week by week.'
And next I saw she had piled her raiment rare
Within the garde-robes, and her household purse,
Her jewels, her least lace of personal wear;
And stood in homespun. Now grown wholly hers,
I handed her the gold, her jewels all,
And him the choicest of her robes diverse.
'I'll take you to the doorway in the wall,
And then adieu,' I told them. 'Friends, withdraw.'
They did so; and she went — beyond recall.
And as I paused beneath the arch I saw
Their moonlit figures — slow, as in surprise —
Descend the slope, and vanish on the haw.
'"Fool," some will say,' I thought. —'But who is wise
Save God alone, to weigh my reasons why?'
— 'Hast thou struck home?' came with the boughs' night-sighs.
It was my friend. 'I have struck well. They fly,
But carry wounds that none can cicatrize.'
—'Mortal?' said he. 'Remorseful — worse.'
Her Death and After
The summons was urgent: and forth I went —
By the way of the Western Wall, so drear
On that winter night, and sought a gate,
Where one, by Fate,
Lay dying that I held dear.
And there, as I paused by her tenement,
And the trees shed on me their rime and hoar,
I thought of the man who had left her lone —
Him who made her his own
When I loved her, long before.
The rooms within had the piteous shine
That home-things wear when there's aught amiss;
From the stairway floated the rise and fall
Of an infant's call,
Whose birth had brought her to this.
Her life was the price she would pay for that whine —
For a child by the man she did not love.
'But let that rest for ever,' I said,
And bent my tread
To the bedchamber above.
She took my hand in her thin white own,
And smiled her thanks — though nigh too weak —
And made them a sign to leave us there,
Then faltered, ere
She could bring herself to speak.
'Just to see you — before I go — he'll condone
Such a natural thing now my time's not much —
When Death is so near it hustles hence
All passioned sense
Between woman and man as such!
'My husband is absent. As heretofore
The City detains him. But, in truth,
He has not been kind. ... I will speak no blame,
But — the child is lame;
O, I pray she may reach his ruth!
'Forgive past days — I can say no more —
Maybe had we wed you would now repine! ...
But I treated you ill. I was punished. Farewell!
— Truth shall I tell?
Would the child were yours and mine!
'As a wife I was true. But, such my unease
That, could I insert a deed back in Time,
I'd make her yours, to secure your care;
And the scandal bear,
And the penalty for the crime!'
— When I had left, and the swinging trees
Rang above me, as lauding her candid say,
Another was I. Her words were enough:
Came smooth, came rough,
I felt I could live my day.
Next night she died; and her obsequies
In the Field of Tombs where the earthworks frowned
Had her husband's heed. His tendance spent,
I often went
And pondered by her mound.
All that year and the next year whiled,
And I still went thitherward in the gloam;
But the Town forgot her and her nook,
And her husband took
Another Love to his home.
And the rumour flew that the lame lone child
Whom she wished for its safety child of mine,
Was treated ill when offspring came
Of the new-made dame,
And marked a more vigorous line.
A smarter grief within me wrought
Than even at loss of her so dear
That the being whose soul my soul suffused
Had a child ill-used,
While I dared not interfere!
One eve as I stood at my spot of thought
In the white-stoned Garth, brooding thus her wrong,
Her husband neared; and to shun his view
By her hallowed mew
I went from the tombs among
To the Cirque of the Gladiators which faced —
That haggard mark of Imperial Rome,
Whose Pagan echoes mock the chime
Of our Christian time —
And I drew to its bank and clomb.
The sun's gold touch was scarce displaced
From the vast Arena where men once bled,
When her husband followed; bowed; half-passed
With lip upcast;
Then halting sullenly said:
'It is noised that you visit my first wife's tomb.
Now, I gave her an honoured name to bear
While living, when dead. So I've claim to ask
By what right you task
My patience by vigiling there?
'There's decency even in death, I assume;
Preserve it, sir, and keep away;
For the mother of my first-born you
Show mind undue!
— Sir, I've nothing more to say.'
A desperate stroke discerned I then —
God pardon — or pardon not — the lie;
She had sighed that she wished (lest the child should pine
Of slights) 'twere mine,
So I said: 'But the father I.
'That you thought it yours is the way of men;
But I won her troth long ere your day:
You learnt how, in dying, she summoned me?
'Twas in fealty.
— Sir, I've nothing more to say,
'Save that, if you'll hand me my little maid,
I'll take her, and rear her, and spare you toil.
Think it more than a friendly act none can;
I'm a lonely man,
While you've a large pot to boil.
'If not, and you'll put it to ball or blade —
To-night, to-morrow night, anywhen —
I'll meet you here. ... But think of it,
And in season fit
Let me hear from you again.'
— Well, I went away, hoping; but nought I heard
Of my stroke for the child, till there greeted me
A little voice that one day came
To my window-frame
And babbled innocently:
'My father who's not my own, sends word
I'm to stay here, sir, where I belong!'
Next a writing came: 'Since the child was the fruit
Of your lawless suit,
Pray fake her, to right a wrong.'
And I did. And I gave the child my love,
And the child loved me, and estranged us none.
But compunctions loomed; for I'd harmed the dead
By what I said
For the good of the living one.
— Yet though, God wot, I am sinner enough,
And unworthy the woman who drew me so,
Perhaps this wrong for her darling's good
She forgives, or would,
If only she could know!
Excerpted from Selected Poems by THOMAS HARDY. Copyright © 1995 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
From Wessex Poems and Other Verses
A Confession to a Friend in Trouble
Her Death and After
I Look into My Glass
From Poems of the Past and the Present
The Going of the Battery
The Souls of the Slain
Rome: The Vatican: Sala delle Muse
A Commonplace Day
Doom and She
An August Midnight
The Darkling Thrush
A Wasted Illness
The Levelled Churchyard
The Ruined Maid
In Tenebris I
In Tenebris II
In Tenebris III
From Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses
Shut Out That Moon
The Night of the Dance
A Church Romance
A Wet Night
The Man He Killed
An uncollected poem
From Satires of Circumstance
The Convergence of the Twain
Beyond the Last Lamp
The Face at the Casement
"Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?"
I Found Her Out there
At Castle Boterel
The Phantom Horsewoman
The Death of Regret
From Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Versus
We Sat at the Window
Afternoon Service at Mellstock
To My Father's Violin
Overlooking the River Stour
During Wind and Rain
Who's in the Next Room?
The Masked Face
The Clock of the Years
The Shadow on the Stone
In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations'
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Like so many of the free books available for the Nook, this book is very poorly scanned. Pagination and printing is off. I love Thomas Hardy ¿ but this is not the way to read him. It is not worth the trouble, and I am deleting it. I guess you really do get what you pay for¿