Thomas Hardy

(2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928 / Dorchester / England)

"I Have Lived With Shades"


I

I have lived with shades so long,
And talked to them so oft,
Since forth from cot and croft
I went mankind among,
   That sometimes they
   In their dim style
   Will pause awhile
   To hear my say;

II

And take me by the hand,
And lead me through their rooms
In the To-be, where Dooms
Half-wove and shapeless stand:
   And show from there
   The dwindled dust
   And rot and rust
   Of things that were.

III

"Now turn," spake they to me
One day: "Look whence we came,
And signify his name
Who gazes thence at thee." -
   --"Nor name nor race
   Know I, or can,"
   I said, "Of man
   So commonplace.

IV

"He moves me not at all;
I note no ray or jot
Of rareness in his lot,
Or star exceptional.
   Into the dim
   Dead throngs around
   He'll sink, nor sound
   Be left of him."

V

"Yet," said they, "his frail speech,
Hath accents pitched like thine -
Thy mould and his define
A likeness each to each -
   But go! Deep pain
   Alas, would be
   His name to thee,
   And told in vain!"

"O memory, where is now my youth,
Who used to say that life was truth?"

"I saw him in a crumbled cot
   Beneath a tottering tree;
That he as phantom lingers there
   Is only known to me."

"O Memory, where is now my joy,
Who lived with me in sweet employ?"

"I saw him in gaunt gardens lone,
   Where laughter used to be;
That he as phantom wanders there
   Is known to none but me."

"O Memory, where is now my hope,
Who charged with deeds my skill and scope?"

"I saw her in a tomb of tomes,
   Where dreams are wont to be;
That she as spectre haunteth there
   Is only known to me."

"O Memory, where is now my faith,
One time a champion, now a wraith?"

"I saw her in a ravaged aisle,
   Bowed down on bended knee;
That her poor ghost outflickers there
   Is known to none but me."

"O Memory, where is now my love,
That rayed me as a god above?"

"I saw him by an ageing shape
   Where beauty used to be;
That his fond phantom lingers there
   Is only known to me."

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Comments about this poem ("I Have Lived With Shades" by Thomas Hardy )

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  • Rookie Andrew Hoellering (6/15/2009 12:34:00 AM)

    I would agree with the statement, and suggest you read the following poems, all reproduced here.
    Beeny Cliff and At Castle Boterel (both following the death of his first wife.)
    When I set out for Lyonnesse.
    I look into my Glass.
    The Darkling Thrush.
    In Time of Breaking of Nations.
    Channel Firing.
    The Man he Killed.
    Men who March Away.
    In Tenebris. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Andrew Fincham (4/20/2009 5:52:00 AM)

    I've read today (? C. Tomlin's biography?) that the death of his estranged wife changed Hardy from a good to a great poet.

    Can anyone point me towards such poems?

    Thanks x (Report) Reply

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