I’ve returned to Thomas Hardy in the last three weeks, rereading The Woodlanders, finishing Claire Milgate’ss excellent biography, and thumbing through my well-worn copy of his Selected Poems. I love “The Voice” best, as poignant an example of Hardy’s idiosyncratic approach to meter and rhyme as any lyric. Note how the poem accumulates energy until the awkward stifled sigh of a last stanza.
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.