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An August Midnight

I

  • A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
  • And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
  • On this scene enter — winged, horned, and spined —
  • A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
  • While ’mid my page there idly stands
  • A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .

II

  • Thus meet we five, in this still place,
  • At this point of time, at this point in space.
  • — My guests parade my new-penned ink,
  • Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.
  • “God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
  • They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

The Sun on the Bookcase

  • Once more the cauldron of the sun
  • Smears the bookcase with winy red,
  • And here my page is, and there my bed,
  • And the apple-tree shadows travel along.
  • Soon their intangible track will be run,
  • And dusk grow strong
  • And they have fled.
  • Yes: now the boiling ball is gone,
  • And I have wasted another day….
  • But wasted-wasted, do I say?
  • Is it a waste to have imagined one
  • Beyond the hills there, who, anon,
  • My great deeds done,
  • Will be mine alway?

The Woman in the Rye

  • ‘Why do you stand in the dripping rye,
  • Cold-lipped, unconscious, wet to the knee,
  • When there are firesides near?’ said I.
  • ‘I told him I wished him dead,’ said she.
  • ‘Yea, cried it in my haste to one
  • Whom I had loved, whom I well loved still;
  • And die he did. And I hate the sun,
  • And stand here lonely, aching, chill;
  • ‘Stand waiting, waiting under skies
  • That blow reproach, the while I see
  • The rooks sheer off to where he lies
  • Wrapt in a peace withheld from me.’

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) was an English novelist and poet. Although he was first known for such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and Tess D’Ubervilles (1891), he laid aside fiction to take up his life’s love — verse. While many critics consider him one of the last of the Victorian poets, others, such as 20th-century poet Philip Larkin, saw a more modern sensibility in his exploration of dark poetic themes focusing on the decline of civilization, and in his use of expressive poetic forms, measured, original and reminiscent of that other great poet to bridge Victorian and modern poetry, W.B. Yeats.

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