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.
Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928) was a late-nineteenth/early twentieth-century English novelist and poet. He considered himself primarily as a poet (and wrote nothing but after 1900), but has come to be remembered mainly for his political novels, which is shame because his poetry is really good.
This poem haunts me. It has haunted me ever since I first read it eons ago in an A-Level class at the age of 17. I can’t tell you what it is exactly about this poem that gets to me. It expresses something that is, for me at least, unspeakable and deeply uncanny, especially in the opening and final verses. I now wonder if its effect has to do with a chilling sense of awareness that we never “get over” such losses; all we can do is make them part of ourselves and keep on faltering forward.