Selected Poems

Selected Poems

by Thomas Hardy


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486287539
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 12/16/2015
Series: Dover Thrift Editions Series
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 14 Years

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


Served as apprentice to architect James Hicks

Read an Excerpt

Selected Poems


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1995 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-80855-0


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!


    Neutral Tones

    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.


Her Initials

    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!


    San Sebastian

    (August 1813)

    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!'

    The Burghers

    (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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

From Wessex Poems and Other Verses
A Confession to a Friend in Trouble
Neutral Tones
Her Initials
San Sebastian
The Burghers
Her Death and After
Her Immortality
Friends Beyond
Nature's Questioning
I Look into My Glass
From Poems of the Past and the Present
The Going of the Battery
Drummer Hodge
The Souls of the Slain
Rome: The Vatican: Sala delle Muse
A Commonplace Day
Doom and She
The Subalterns
His Immortality
An August Midnight
The Darkling Thrush
A Wasted Illness
A Man
The Levelled Churchyard
The Ruined Maid
In Tenebris I
In Tenebris II
In Tenebris III
Tess's Lament
From Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses
Shut Out That Moon
The Night of the Dance
A Church Romance
The Rambler
A Wet Night
God's Education
The Man He Killed
An uncollected poem
The Calf
From Satires of Circumstance
Channel Firing
The Convergence of the Twain
Beyond the Last Lamp
The Face at the Casement
"Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?"
The Going
I Found Her Out there
The Haunter
The Voice
At Castle Boterel
The Phantom Horsewoman
The Moth-Signal
The Death of Regret
Exeunt Omnes
From Moments of Vision and Miscellaneous Versus
We Sat at the Window
Afternoon Service at Mellstock
To My Father's Violin
The Pedigree
The Oxen
Great Things
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
An Upbraiding
In Time of 'The Breaking of Nations'

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Selected Poems (Penguin Classics) 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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¿