I’ve been dipping into a collection of Thomas Hardy’s poems for quite some time now and I’m surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because he was clearly, like me, a very nostalgic man. I’ve chosen one of my favourite – I’d be happy to have it inscribed on my gravestone!
When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
‘He was a man who used to notice such things’?
If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid’s soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
‘To him this must have been a familiar sight.’
If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, ‘He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; now he is gone.’
If, when hearing that I have stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
‘He was one who had an eye for such mysteries’?
And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell’s bloom,
‘He hears it not now, but used to notice such things’?