Tuesday Poem: The Voice

THE VOICE, Thomas Hardy

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.

Yesterday afternoon I caught part of a programme about Claire Tomalin’s wonderful biography of Thomas Hardy and was reminded of this poem, which he wrote after Emma, his first wife, died. They had been living separate lives for years and Hardy was in love with another woman, but Emma’s unexpected death was – Tomalin asserts – the moment when Hardy became a great poet. Overcome with sorrow and remorse, he began a series of poems of which ‘The Voice’ is one. It’s such a wail of grief and regret, freighted with painful memory. I love it, especially on a cold, dark autumn afternoon here in London.

If you’d like to look at other poems in the hopes they’ll be more cheery than this one, and with any luck at least some of the New Zealand entries will reflect the lightness of spring, ¬†check out The Tuesday Poem blog.

2 Responses to “Tuesday Poem: The Voice”

  1. Melissa Green Says:

    This poem has always moved me terribly. He seems almost to be on Lear’s heath with the piercing line, “wind oozing thin from the thorn from norward/and the woman calling”. Such deep grief gave him the gift of serious poetry. How hard that is. Thank you for posting this.

  2. admin Says:

    Yes, he paid a high price for the gift, didn’t he? I’m glad you like this poem too, I think it’s almost unbearably sad, but wonderful. (Or should that ‘but’ be an ‘and’?)

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