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Thomas Hardy (1840–1928). Wessex Poems and Other Verses. 1898.

11. Her Dilemma

THE TWO were silent in a sunless church,

Whose mildewed walls, uneven paving-stones,

And wasted carvings passed antique research;

And nothing broke the clock’s dull monotones.

Leaning against a wormy poppy-head,

So wan and worn that he could scarcely stand,

—For he was soon to die,—he softly said,

“Tell me you love me!”—holding hard her hand.

She would have given a world to breathe “yes” truly,

So much his life seemed hanging on her mind,

And hence she lied, her heart persuaded throughly,

’Twas worth her soul to be a moment kind.

But the sad need thereof, his nearing death,

So mocked humanity that she shamed to prize

A world conditioned thus, or care for breath

Where Nature such dilemmas could devise.