the Voice

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

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 consigned to existlessness,
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.

– Thomas Hardy

The line “consigned to existlessness” was later changed to “dissolved to wan wistlessness”. I’ve chosen the earlier version because I like it better. The woman was probably Emma, Hardy’s first wife, whose death haunted the poet. The sussurrant S’s in the third stanza provide an appropriate soundtrack to the woman’s soft fading, as does the echoed “call to me, call to me” like words screamed into the wind. In the final stanza, the meter breaks down alongside the narrator’s mindset (accompanied by those ghostly indents).

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