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

42. Nature’s Questioning

WHEN I look forth at dawning, pool,

Field, flock, and lonely tree,

All seem to look at me

Like chastened children sitting silent in a school;

Their faces dulled, constrained, and worn,

As though the master’s ways

Through the long teaching days

Their first terrestrial zest had chilled and overborne.

And on them stirs, in lippings mere

(As if once clear in call,

But now scarce breathed at all)—

“We wonder, ever wonder, why we find us here!

“Has some Vast Imbecility,

Mighty to build and blend,

But impotent to tend,

Framed us in jest, and left us now to hazardry?

“Or come we of an Automaton

Unconscious of our pains?…

Or are we live remains

Of Godhead dying downwards, brain and eye now gone?

“Or is it that some high Plan betides,

As yet not understood,

Of Evil stormed by Good,

We the Forlorn Hope over which Achievement strides?”

Thus things around. No answerer I.…

Meanwhile the winds, and rains,

And Earth’s old glooms and pains

Are still the same, and gladdest Life Death neighbors nigh.