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

31. Her Immortality

UPON a noon I pilgrimed through

A pasture, mile by mile,

Unto the place where I last saw

My dead Love’s living smile.

And sorrowing I lay me down

Upon the heated sod:

It seemed as if my body pressed

The very ground she trod.

I lay, and thought; and in a trance

She came and stood me by—

The same, even to the marvellous ray

That used to light her eye.

“You draw me, and I come to you,

My faithful one,” she said,

In voice that had the moving tone

It bore in maidenhead.

She said: “’Tis seven years since I died:

Few now remember me;

My husband clasps another bride;

My children mothers she.

My brethren, sisters, and my friends

Care not to meet my sprite:

Who prized me most I did not know

Till I passed down from sight.”

I said: “My days are lonely here;

I need thy smile alway:

I’ll use this night my ball or blade,

And join thee ere the day.”

A tremor stirred her tender lips,

Which parted to dissuade:

“That cannot be, O friend,” she cried;

“Think, I am but a Shade!

“A Shade but in its mindful ones

Has immortality;

By living, me you keep alive,

By dying you slay me.

“In you resides my single power

Of sweet continuance here;

On your fidelity I count

Through many a coming year.”

—I started through me at her plight,

So suddenly confessed:

Dismissing late distaste for life,

I craved its bleak unrest.

“I will not die, my One of all!—

To lengthen out thy days

I’ll guard me from minutest harms

That may invest my ways!”

She smiled and went. Since then she comes

Oft when her birth-moon climbs,

Or at the seasons’ ingresses

Or anniversary times;

But grows my grief. When I surcease,

Through whom alone lives she,

Ceases my Love, her words, her ways,

Never again to be!