18+ Best Thomas Hardy Poems Everyone Should Read

Thomas Hardy OM was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth.

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Famous Thomas Hardy Poems

The Sergeant’s Song

WHEN Lawyers strive to heal a breach,
And Parsons practise what they preach;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lorum,
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay!

When Justices hold equal scales,
And Rogues are only found in jails;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, etc.

When Rich Men find their wealth a curse,
And fill therewith the Poor Man’s purse;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, etc.

When Husbands with their Wives agree,
And Maids won’t wed from modesty;
Then Little Boney he’ll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lorum,
Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay!

The Slow Nature

(an Incident of Froom Valley)

“THY husband–poor, poor Heart!–is dead–
Dead, out by Moreford Rise;
A bull escaped the barton-shed,
Gored him, and there he lies!”

–“Ha, ha–go away! ‘Tis a tale, methink,
Thou joker Kit!” laughed she.
“I’ve known thee many a year, Kit Twink,
And ever hast thou fooled me!”

–“But, Mistress Damon–I can swear
Thy goodman John is dead!
And soon th’lt hear their feet who bear
His body to his bed.”

So unwontedly sad was the merry man’s face–
That face which had long deceived–
That she gazed and gazed; and then could trace
The truth there; and she believed.

She laid a hand on the dresser-ledge,
And scanned far Egdon-side;
And stood; and you heard the wind-swept sedge
And the rippling Froom; till she cried:

“O my chamber’s untidied, unmade my bed,
Though the day has begun to wear!
‘What a slovenly hussif!’ it will be said,
When they all go up my stair!”

She disappeared; and the joker stood
Depressed by his neighbor’s doom,
And amazed that a wife struck to widowhood
Thought first of her unkempt room.

But a fortnight thence she could take no food,
And she pined in a slow decay;
While Kit soon lost his mournful mood
And laughed in his ancient way.

The Widow

By Mellstock Lodge and Avenue
Towards her door I went,
And sunset on her window-panes
Reflected our intent.

The creeper on the gable nigh
Was fired to more than red
And when I came to halt thereby
“Bright as my joy!” I said.

Of late days it had been her aim
To meet me in the hall;
Now at my footsteps no one came;
And no one to my call.

Again I knocked; and tardily
An inner step was heard,
And I was shown her presence then
With scarce an answering word.

She met me, and but barely took
My proffered warm embrace;
Preoccupation weighed her look,
And hardened her sweet face.

“To-morrow–could you–would you call?
Make brief your present stay?
My child is ill–my one, my all! –
And can’t be left to-day.”

And then she turns, and gives commands
As I were out of sound,
Or were no more to her and hers
Than any neighbour round . . .

  • As maid I wooed her; but one came
    And coaxed her heart away,
    And when in time he wedded her
    I deemed her gone for aye.

He won, I lost her; and my loss
I bore I know not how;
But I do think I suffered then
Less wretchedness than now.

For Time, in taking him, had oped
An unexpected door
Of bliss for me, which grew to seem
Far surer than before . . .

Her word is steadfast, and I know
That plighted firm are we:
But she has caught new love-calls since
She smiled as maid on me!

Valenciennes

By Corporal Tullidge. See “The Trumpet-Major”
In Memory of S. C. (Pensioner). Died 184-

WE trenched, we trumpeted and drummed,
And from our mortars tons of iron hummed
Ath’art the ditch, the month we bombed
The Town o’ Valencieën.

‘Twas in the June o’ Ninety-dree
(The Duke o’ Yark our then Commander beën)
The German Legion, Guards, and we
Laid siege to Valencieën.

This was the first time in the war
That French and English spilled each other’s gore;
–God knows what year will end the roar
Begun at Valencieën!

‘Twas said that we’d no business there
A-topperèn the French for disagreën;
However, that’s not my affair–
We were at Valencieën.

Such snocks and slats, since war began
Never knew raw recruit or veteràn:
Stone-deaf therence went many a man
Who served at Valencieën.

Into the streets, ath’art the sky,
A hundred thousand balls and bombs were fleën;
And harmless townsfolk fell to die
Each hour at Valencieën!

And, sweatèn wi’ the bombardiers,
A shell was slent to shards anighst my ears:
–‘Twas night the end of hopes and fears
For me at Valencieën!

They bore my wownded frame to camp,
And shut my gapèn skull, and washed en cleän,
And jined en wi’ a zilver clamp
Thik night at Valencieën.

“We’ve fetched en back to quick from dead;
But never more on earth while rose is red
Will drum rouse Corpel!” Doctor said
O’ me at Valencieën.

‘Twer true. No voice o’ friend or foe
Can reach me now, or any liveèn beën;
And little have I power to know
Since then at Valencieën!

I never hear the zummer hums
O’ bees; and don’t know when the cuckoo comes;
But night and day I hear the bombs
We threw at Valencieën….

As for the Duke o’ Yark in war,
There be some volk whose judgment o’ en is meän;
But this I say–‘a was not far
From great at Valencieën.

O’ wild wet nights, when all seems sad,
My wownds come back, as though new wownds I’d had;
But yet–at times I’m sort o’ glad
I fout at Valencieën.

Well: Heaven wi’ its jasper halls
Is now the on’y Town I care to be in….
Good Lord, if Nick should bomb the walls
As we did Valencieën!

The Walk

You did not walk with me
Of late to the hill-top tree
As in earlier days,
By the gated ways:
You were weak and lame,
So you never came,
And I went alone, and I did not mind,
Not thinking of you as left behind.

I walked up there to-day
Just in the former way:
Surveyed around
The familiar ground
By myself again:
What difference, then?
Only that underlying sense
Of the look of a room on returning thence.

To A Sea-Cliff

(Durlston Head)

Lend me an ear
While I read you here
A page from your history,
Old cliff—not known
To your solid stone,
Yet yours inseparably.

Near to your crown
There once sat down
A silent listless pair;
And the sunset ended,
And dark descended,
And still the twain sat there.

Past your jutting head
Then a line-ship sped,
Lit brightly as a city;
And she sobbed: ‘There goes
A man who knows
I am his, beyond God’s pity! ‘

He slid apart
Who had thought her heart
His own, and not aboard
A bark, sea-bound….
That night they found
Between them lay a sword.

We Are Getting To The End

We are getting to the end of visioning
The impossible within this universe,
Such as that better whiles may follow worse,
And that our race may mend by reasoning.

We know that even as larks in cages sing
Unthoughtful of deliverance from the curse
That holds them lifelong in a latticed hearse,
We ply spasmodically our pleasuring.

And that when nations set them to lay waste
Their neighbours’ heritage by foot and horse,
And hack their pleasant plains in festering seams,
They may again, – not warily, or from taste,
But tickled mad by some demonic force. –
Yes. We are getting to the end of dreams!

The Recalcitrants

Let us off and search, and find a place
Where yours and mine can be natural lives,
Where no one comes who dissects and dives
And proclaims that ours is a curious case,
That its touch of romance can scarcely grace.

You would think it strange at first, but then
Everything has been strange in its time.
When some one said on a day of the prime
He would bow to no brazen god again
He doubtless dazed the mass of men.

None will recognize us as a pair whose claims
Righteous judgment we care not making;
Who have doubted if breath be worth the taking,
And have no respect for the current fames
Whence the savour has flown while abide the names.

We have found us already shunned, disdained,
And for re-acceptance have not once striven;
Whatever offence our course has given
The brunt thereof we have long sustained.
Well, let us away, scorned, unexplained.

Welcome Home

To my native place
Bent upon returning,
Bosom all day burning
To be where my race
Well were known, ’twas much with me
There to dwell in amity.

Folk had sought their beds,
But I hailed: to view me
Under the moon, out to me
Several pushed their heads,
And to each I told my name,
Plans, and that therefrom I came.

‘Did you? . . . Ah, ’tis true
I once heard, back a long time,
Here had spent his young time,
Some such man as you . . .
Good-night.’ The casement closed again,
And I was left in the frosty lane.

The Problem

Shall we conceal the Case, or tell it –
We who believe the evidence?
Here and there the watch-towers knell it
With a sullen significance,
Heard of the few who hearken intently and carry an eagerly upstrained
sense.

Hearts that are happiest hold not by it;
Better we let, then, the old view reign;
Since there is peace in it, why decry it?
Since there is comfort, why disdain?
Note not the pigment the while that the painting determines
humanity’s joy and pain!

The Satin Shoes

If ever I walk to church to wed,
As other maidens use,
And face the gathered eyes,’ she said,
‘I’ll go in satin shoes!’

She was as fair as early day
Shining on meads unmown,
And her sweet syllables seemed to play
Like flute-notes softly blown.

The time arrived when it was meet
That she should be a bride;
The satin shoes were on her feet,
Her father was at her side.

They stood within the dairy door,
And gazed across the green;
The church loomed on the distant moor,
But rain was thick between.

‘The grass-path hardly can be stepped.
The lane is like a pool!’ –
Her dream is shown to be inept,
Her wish they overrule.

‘To go forth shod in satin soft
A coach would be required!’
For thickest boots the shoes were doffed –
Those shoes her soul desired….

All day the bride, as overborne,
Was seen to brood apart,
And that the shoes had not been worn
Sat heavy on her heart.

From her wrecked dream, as months flew on,
Her thought seemed not to range.
‘What ails the wife?’ they said anon,
‘That she should be so strange?’…

Ah – what coach comes with furtive glide –
A coach of closed-up kind?
It comes to fetch the last year’s bride,
Who wanders in her mind.

She strove with them, and fearfully ran
Stairward with one low scream:
‘Nay – coax her,’ said the madhouse man,
‘With some old household theme.’

‘If you will go, dear, you must fain
Put on those shoes – the pair
For your marriage, which the rain
Forbade you then to wear.’

She clapped her hands, flushed joyous hues;
‘O yes – I’ll up and ride
If I am to wear my satin shoes
And be a proper bride!’

Out then her little foot held she,
As to depart with speed;
The madhouse man smiled pleasantly
To see the wile succeed.

She turned to him when all was done,
And gave him her thin hand,
Exclaiming like an enraptured one,
‘This time it will be grand!’

She mounted with a face elate,
Shut was the carriage door;
They drove her to the madhouse gate,
And she was seen no more….

Yet she was fair as early day
Shining on meads unmown,
And her sweet syllables seemed to play
Like flute-notes softly blown.

The Telegram

O He’s suffering – maybe dying – and I not there to aid,
And smooth his bed and whisper to him! Can I nohow go?
Only the nurse’s brief twelve words thus hurriedly conveyed,
As by stealth, to let me know.

‘He was the best and brightest! – candour shone upon his brow,
And I shall never meet again a soldier such as he,
And I loved him ere I knew it, and perhaps he’s sinking now,
Far, far removed from me!’

  • The yachts ride mute at anchor and the fulling moon is fair,
    And the giddy folk are strutting up and down the smooth parade,
    And in her wild distraction she seems not to be aware
    That she lives no more a maid,

But has vowed and wived herself to one who blessed the ground she trod
To and from his scene of ministry, and thought her history known
In its last particular to him – aye, almost as to God,
And believed her quite his own.

So great her absentmindedness she droops as in a swoon,
And a movement of aversion mars her recent spousal grace,
And in silence we two sit here in our waning honeymoon
At this idle watering-place….

What now I see before me is a long lane overhung
With lovelessness, and stretching from the present to the grave.
And I would I were away from this, with friends I knew when young,
Ere a woman held me slave.

New Year’s Eve

I have finished another year,” said God,
“In grey, green, white, and brown;
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod,
Sealed up the worm within the clod,
And let the last sun down.”

“And what’s the good of it?” I said.
“What reasons made you call
From formless void this earth we tread,
When nine-and-ninety can be read
Why nought should be at all?

“Yea, Sire; why shaped you us, ‘who in
This tabernacle groan’—
If ever a joy be found herein,
Such joy no man had wished to win
If he had never known!”

Then he: “My labours—logicless—
You may explain; not I:
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess
That I evolved a Consciousness
To ask for reasons why.

“Strange that ephemeral creatures who
By my own ordering are,
Should see the shortness of my view,
Use ethic tests I never knew,
Or made provision for!”

He sank to raptness as of yore,
And opening New Year’s Day
Wove it by rote as theretofore,
And went on working evermore
In his unweeting way.

The Pity Of It

I walked in loamy Wessex lanes, afar
From rail-track and from highway, and I heard
In field and farmstead many an ancient word
Of local lineage like ‘Thu bist,’ ‘Er war,’
‘Ich woll,’ ‘Er sholl,’ and by-talk similar,
Nigh as they speak who in this month’s moon gird
At England’s very loins, thereunto spurred
By gangs whose glory threats and slaughters are.

Then seemed a Heart crying: ‘Whosoever they be
At root and bottom of this, who flung this flame
Between kin folk kin tongued even as are we,
Sinister, ugly, lurid, be their fame;
May their familiars grow to shun their name,
And their brood perish everlastingly.

At the Entering of the New Year

I
(OLD STYLE)

Our songs went up and out the chimney,
And roused the home-gone husbandmen;
Our allemands, our heys, poussettings,
Our hands-across and back again,
Sent rhythmic throbbings through the casements
On to the white highway,
Where nighted farers paused and muttered,
“Keep it up well, do they!”

The contrabasso’s measured booming
Sped at each bar to the parish bounds,
To shepherds at their midnight lambings,
To stealthy poachers on their rounds;
And everybody caught full duly
The notes of our delight,
As Time unrobed the Youth of Promise
Hailed by our sanguine sight.

II
(NEW STYLE)

We stand in the dusk of a pine-tree limb,
As if to give ear to the muffled peal,
Brought or withheld at the breeze’s whim;
But our truest heed is to words that steal
From the mantled ghost that looms in the gray,
And seems, so far as our sense can see,
To feature bereaved Humanity,
As it sighs to the imminent year its say:—

“O stay without, O stay without,
Calm comely Youth, untasked, untired;
Though stars irradiate thee about
Thy entrance here is undesired.
Open the gate not, mystic one;
Must we avow what we would close confine?
With thee, good friend, we would have converse none,
Albeit the fault may not be thine.”

December 31. During the War.

The Choirmaster’s Burial

He often would ask us
That, when he died,
After playing so many
To their last rest,
If out of us any
Should here abide,
And it would not task us,
We would with our lutes
Play over him
By his grave-brim
The psalm he liked best—
The one whose sense suits
‘Mount Ephraim’—
And perhaps we should seem
To him, in Death’s dream,
Like the seraphim.

As soon as I knew
That his spirit was gone
I thought this his due,
And spoke thereupon.
‘I think’, said the vicar,
‘A read service quicker
Than viols out-of-doors
In these frosts and hoars.
That old-fashioned way
Requires a fine day,
And it seems to me
It had better not be.’
Hence, that afternoon,
Though never knew he
That his wish could not be,
To get through it faster
They buried the master
Without any tune.

But ’twas said that, when
At the dead of next night
The vicar looked out,
There struck on his ken
Thronged roundabout,
Where the frost was graying
The headstoned grass,
A band all in white
Like the saints in church-glass,
Singing and playing
The ancient stave
By the choirmaster’s grave.

Such the tenor man told
When he had grown old.

Rain on a Grave

Clouds spout upon her
Their waters amain
In ruthless disdain, –
Her who but lately
Had shivered with pain
As at touch of dishonour
If there had lit on her
So coldly, so straightly
Such arrows of rain:

One who to shelter
Her delicate head
Would quicken and quicken
Each tentative tread
If drops chanced to pelt her
That summertime spills
In dust-paven rills
When thunder-clouds thicken
And birds close their bills.

Would that I lay there
And she were housed here!
Or better, together
Were folded away there
Exposed to one weather
We both, – who would stray there
When sunny the day there,
Or evening was clear
At the prime of the year.

Soon will be growing
Green blades from her mound,
And daisies be showing
Like stars on the ground,
Till she form part of them –
Ay – the sweet heart of them,
Loved beyond measure
With a child’s pleasure
All her life’s round.

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