Satires of Circumstance

By Thomas Hardy, 1914
Satires of Circumstance

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Excerpt

LYRICS AND REVERIES

IN FRONT OF THE LANDSCAPE

Plunging and labouring on in a tide of visions,
   Dolorous and dear,
Forward I pushed my way as amid waste waters
   Stretching around,
Through whose eddies there glimmered the customed landscape
   Yonder and near,

Blotted to feeble mist.  And the coomb and the upland
   Foliage-crowned,
Ancient chalk-pit, milestone, rills in the grass-flat
   Stroked by the light,
Seemed but a ghost-like gauze, and no substantial
   Meadow or mound.

What were the infinite spectacles bulking foremost
   Under my sight,
Hindering me to discern my paced advancement
   Lengthening to miles;
What were the re-creations killing the daytime
   As by the night?

O they were speechful faces, gazing insistent,
   Some as with smiles,
Some as with slow-born tears that brinily trundled
   Over the wrecked
Cheeks that were fair in their flush-time, ash now with anguish,
   Harrowed by wiles.

Yes, I could see them, feel them, hear them, address them—
   Halo-bedecked—
And, alas, onwards, shaken by fierce unreason,
   Rigid in hate,
Smitten by years-long wryness born of misprision,
   Dreaded, suspect.

Then there would breast me shining sights, sweet seasons
   Further in date;
Instruments of strings with the tenderest passion
   Vibrant, beside
Lamps long extinguished, robes, cheeks, eyes with the earth’s crust
   Now corporate.

Also there rose a headland of hoary aspect
   Gnawed by the tide,
Frilled by the nimb of the morning as two friends stood there
   Guilelessly glad—
Wherefore they knew not—touched by the fringe of an ecstasy
   Scantly descried.

Later images too did the day unfurl me,
   Shadowed and sad,
Clay cadavers of those who had shared in the dramas,
   Laid now at ease,
Passions all spent, chiefest the one of the broad brow
   Sepulture-clad.

So did beset me scenes miscalled of the bygone,
   Over the leaze,
Past the clump, and down to where lay the beheld ones;
   —Yea, as the rhyme
Sung by the sea-swell, so in their pleading dumbness
   Captured me these.