Thomas Hardy not a man  you’d want to be in love with but if you were he’d write about your failings & his feelings very well

angies osteospermums.JPG
Gorgeous  denim-coloured osteospermum’s in Angie’s garden

I’ve been reading, slowly, meditatively,  Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Going’ here for most of the week:

The Going

Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!

Never to bid good-bye,
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
Unmoved, unknowing
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.

Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!

You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny Crest,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.

Why, then, latterly did we not speak,
Did we not think of those days long dead,
And ere your vanishing strive to seek
That time’s renewal?  We might have said,
‘In this bright spring weather
We’ll visit together
Those places that once we visited.’

Well, well!  All’s past amend,
Unchangeable.  It must go.
I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon. . . . O you could not know
That such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing-
Not even I—would undo me so!

We’d got to this point – Hardy, at first complaining, and later seeing his own part in both the silence and the loss, realising everything is now altered. That everything includes the inner state of himself.  Now we come, in stanza 3, to the strong presence of  the woman in his altered consciousness –

Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!

There is still an air of complaint here, his question, why, is more than a straight-forward questioning. The querulousness comes from that ‘why do you?’ ‘Why do you?’ is almost a stock phrase from an unhappy relationship, isn’t it? Or an unhappy moment in a good relationship?  It is a rhterorical complaining question: why do you always walk upstairs with muddy shoes on? Why do you always forget to start the dishwasher?

Is the word ‘make’ also part of the complaint? As an action of the woman, it is so active compared to the passive presence at the beginning of the poem. Except, as I look again, was it ever passive? No – I’m misremembering. She acted decisively – she was quick , calm and indifferent in her leaving of him. He feels hurt, the victim. Perhaps that points us to the double edge of this verb, make, which more than intimates he doesn’t want to leave the house, she’s got some unhappy power over him. To make someone do something is to assert power or force. To be made to do something is to feel forced, over-pwered by anothers will.

But Hardy is a poet of complex emotion. Look at the word ‘breath’ in line two, which changes that  querulousness into hope:

Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs

The hope soon goes and he is left with bad feeling: nothing, empty.

And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!

She was once – many times, so often – there in this spot ‘at the end of the alley of bending boughs’ and I assume he saw her there, then, and did not follow her. There was a distance. There is a disjunction of time and space. Then – before she left – he migth have followed her, spoken to herbut he did not. Now he does follow her – or something, his own guilt, perhaps his longing, his hope  – but she is no longer there.  He is left with nothing, the yawning blankness, the sick feeling.

I always think, I’m so glad I didnt know Tom Hardy as  living man.  I dislike so much about  him, particularly his relations with women, but also with other things – his own powerful despair (last time I read Jude The Obscure, maybe fifteen years years, I swore  ‘I am never going to read this book ever again.’ Stuck to that, so far.) Yes, he drives me mad. And yet –

There is much I admire, love in the poetry and I believe that means also in the man. I do not know another poet who is so good at nailing  complex, real, contradictory feelings with words, and those feelings being so often feelings one has in intimate relationships with others. He may not be a man  you’d want to be in love with  but if you were you could rest assured he would write about your failings and his feeings very well. Who else can write that  massive blankness of  lost feeling regretted?

And now, as he reels from that feeling he gloriously remembers  her, before  they split:

You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny Crest,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.

But I must stop now. I started late today because  I was reading for long time  before I got to my desk and missed the quiet time in which I usually write  and have had a lot of interruptions and  got work piling up around me…

Next stanza tomorrow. Good, though, isn’t it?

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