We currently have 10 poems by Thomas Hardy. You can listen to them all one after the other using the playlist below or if you prefer you can click the links further down to read a specific poem whilst listening to it.
Read and listen to A Trampwoman's Tragedy
From Wynyard’s Gap the livelong day,
The livelong day,
We beat afoot the northward way
We had travelled times before.
The sun-blaze burning on our backs,
Our shoulders sticking to our packs,
By fosseway, fields, and turnpike tracks
We skirted sad Sedge-Moor.
Full twenty miles we jaunted on,
We jaunted on, –
My fancy-man, and jeering John,
And Mother Lee, and I.
And, as the sun drew down to west,
We climbed the toilsome Poldon crest,
And saw, of landskip sights the best,
The inn that beamed thereby.
For months we had padded side by side,
Ay, side by side
Through the Great Forest, Blackmoor wide,
And where the Parret ran.
We’d faced the gusts on Mendip ridge,
Had crossed the Yeo unhelped by bridge,
Been stung by every Marshwood midge,
I and my fancy-man.
Lone inns we loved, my man and I,
My man and I;
“King’s Stag,” “Windwhistle” high and dry,
“The Horse” on Hintock Green,
The cosy house at Wynyard’s Gap,
“The Hut” renowned on Bredy Knap,
And many another wayside tap
Where folk might sit unseen.
Now as we trudged – O deadly day,
O deadly day! –
I teased my fancy-man in play
And wanton idleness.
I walked alongside jeering John,
I laid his hand my waist upon;
I would not bend my glances on
My lover’s dark distress.
Thus Poldon top at last we won,
At last we won,
And gained the inn at sink of sun
Far-famed as “Marshal’s Elm.”
Beneath us figured tor and lea,
From Mendip to the western sea –
I doubt if finer sight there be
Within this royal realm.
Inside the settle all a-row –
All four a-row
We sat, I next to John, to show
That he had wooed and won.
And then he took me on his knee,
And swore it was his turn to be
My favoured mate, and Mother Lee
Passed to my former one.
Then in a voice I had never heard,
I had never heard,
My only Love to me: “One word,
My lady, if you please!
Whose is the child you are like to bear? –
HIS? After all my months o’ care?”
God knows ’twas not! But, O despair!
I nodded – still to tease.
Then up he sprung, and with his knife –
And with his knife
He let out jeering Johnny’s life,
Yes; there, at set of sun.
The slant ray through the window nigh
Gilded John’s blood and glazing eye,
Ere scarcely Mother Lee and I
Knew that the deed was done.
The taverns tell the gloomy tale,
The gloomy tale,
How that at Ivel-chester jail
My Love, my sweetheart swung;
Though stained till now by no misdeed
Save one horse ta’en in time o’ need;
(Blue Jimmy stole right many a steed
Ere his last fling he flung.)
Thereaft I walked the world alone,
On his death-day I gave my groan
And dropt his dead-born child.
‘Twas nigh the jail, beneath a tree,
None tending me; for Mother Lee
Had died at Glaston, leaving me
Unfriended on the wild.
And in the night as I lay weak,
As I lay weak,
The leaves a-falling on my cheek,
The red moon low declined –
The ghost of him I’d die to kiss
Rose up and said: “Ah, tell me this!
Was the child mine, or was it his?
Speak, that I rest may find!”
O doubt not but I told him then,
I told him then,
That I had kept me from all men
Since we joined lips and swore.
Whereat he smiled, and thinned away
As the wind stirred to call up day . . .
– ‘Tis past! And here alone I stray
Haunting the Western Moor.
Read and listen to At An Inn
When we as strangers sought
Their catering care,
Veiled smiles bespoke their thought
Of what we were.
They warmed as they opined
Us more than friends –
That we had all resigned
For love’s dear ends.
And that swift sympathy
With living love
Which quicks the world maybe
The spheres above,
Made them our ministers,
Moved them to say,
“Ah, God, that bliss like theirs
Would flush our day!”
And we were left alone
As Love’s own pair;
Yet never the love-light shone
Between us there!
But that which chilled the breath
And palsied unto death
The pane-fly’s tune.
The kiss their zeal foretold,
And now deemed come,
Came not: within his hold
Why cast he on our port
A bloom not ours?
Why shaped us for his sport
As we seemed we were not
That day afar,
And now we seem not what
We aching are.
O severing sea and land,
O laws of men,
Ere death, once let us stand
As we stood then!
Read and listen to The Garden Seat
Its former green is blue and thin,
And its once firm legs sink in and in;
Soon it will break down unaware,
Soon it will break down unaware.
At night when reddest flowers are black
Those who once sat thereon come back;
Quite a row of them sitting there,
Quite a row of them sitting there.
With them the seat does not break down,
Nor winter freeze them, nor floods drown,
For they are as light as upper air,
They are as light as upper air!
Read and listen to The Going
Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!
Never to bid good-bye,
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.
Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!
You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny Crest,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.
Why, then, latterly did we not speak,
Did we not think of those days long dead,
And ere your vanishing strive to seek
That time’s renewal? We might have said,
“In this bright spring weather
We’ll visit together
Those places that once we visited.”
Well, well! All’s past amend,
Unchangeable. It must go.
I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon . . . O you could not know
How such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing –
Not even I would undo me so!
Read and listen to The Ruined Maid
“O ‘Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” –
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.
– “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” –
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.
– “At home in the barton you said ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’
And ‘thik oon,’ and ‘theas oon,’ and ‘t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” –
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.
– “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak,
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.
– “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!” – “True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.
– “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” –
“My dear – a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.
Read and listen to Where the Picnic Was
Where we made the fire,
In the summer time,
Of branch and briar
On the hill to the sea
I slowly climb
Through winter mire,
And scan and trace
The forsaken place
Now a cold wind blows,
And the grass is gray,
But the spot still shows
As a burnt circle aye,
And stick-ends, charred,
Still strew the sward
Whereon I stand,
Last relic of the band
Who came that day!
Yes, I am here
Just as last year,
And the sea breathes brine
From its strange straight line
Up hither, the same
As when we four came.
– But two have wandered far
From this grassy rise
Into urban roar
Where no picnics are,
And one has shut her eyes
Read and listen to The Man He Killed
“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although
“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.
“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”
Read and listen to 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 of 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.
Read and listen to Midnight on the Great Western
In the third-class seat sat the journeying boy,
And the roof-lamp’s oily flame
Played down on his listless form and face,
Bewrapt past knowing to what he was going,
Or whence he came.
In the band of his hat the journeying boy
Had a ticket stuck; and a string
Around his neck bore the key of his box,
That twinkled gleams of the lamp’s sad beams
Like a living thing.
What past can be yours, O journeying boy
Towards a world unknown,
Who calmly, as if incurious quite
On all at stake, can undertake
This plunge alone?
Knows your soul a sphere, O journeying boy,
Our rude realms far above,
Whence with spacious vision you mark and mete
This region of sin that you find you in,
But are not of?
Read and listen to Broken Appointment
You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb,—
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
–I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?
Thomas Hardy - 1840 - 1928
Was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain, such as those from his native South West England.
While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of novels such as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). During his lifetime, Hardy’s poetry was acclaimed by younger poets (particularly the Georgians) who viewed him as a mentor. After his death his poems were lauded by Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin.
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