Friday, August 30, 2013

The Shadow on the Stone (Thomas Hardy)

We had a really wonderful time on the west coast, and I'm excited to post about our trip soon.  In the meantime, I'm feeling rather sad about Seamus Heaney's death.  I've been a fan for his since reading District and Circle as a bit of free reading at Oxford.  I saw him speak at AWP this year, and though it's impossible to know a person from watching them onstage, he seemed in every way to be just what I expected, and I'm so glad I had that opportunity.  This poem isn't by him, of course, but it felt appropriate for the day, somehow.

The Shadow on the Stone (Thomas Hardy)

I went by the Druid stone
   That broods in the garden white and lone,   
And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows   
   That at some moments fall thereon
   From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,   
   And they shaped in my imagining
To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders   
   Threw there when she was gardening.

      I thought her behind my back,
   Yea, her I long had learned to lack,
And I said: ‘I am sure you are standing behind me,   
   Though how do you get into this old track?’   
   And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf   
   As a sad response; and to keep down grief
I would not turn my head to discover
   That there was nothing in my belief.

      Yet I wanted to look and see
   That nobody stood at the back of me;
But I thought once more: ‘Nay, I’ll not unvision   
   A shape which, somehow, there may be.’   
   So I went on softly from the glade,
   And left her behind me throwing her shade,   
As she were indeed an apparition—
   My head unturned lest my dream should fade.

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