Thomas Hardy

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

The Colonel's Soliloquy (Southampton Docks: October, 1899)


"The quay recedes. Hurrah! Ahead we go! . . .
It's true I've been accustomed now to home,
And joints get rusty, and one's limbs may grow
   More fit to rest than roam.

"But I can stand as yet fair stress and strain;
There's not a little steel beneath the rust;
My years mount somewhat, but here's to't again!
   And if I fall, I must.

"God knows that for myself I've scanty care;
Past scrimmages have proved as much to all;
In Eastern lands and South I've had my share
   Both of the blade and ball.

"And where those villains ripped me in the flitch
With their old iron in my early time,
I'm apt at change of wind to feel a twitch,
   Or at a change of clime.

"And what my mirror shows me in the morning
Has more of blotch and wrinkle than of bloom;
My eyes, too, heretofore all glasses scorning,
   Have just a touch of rheum . . .

"Now sounds 'The Girl I've left behind me,'--Ah,
The years, the ardours, wakened by that tune!
Time was when, with the crowd's farewell 'Hurrah!'
   'Twould lift me to the moon.

"But now it's late to leave behind me one
Who if, poor soul, her man goes underground,
Will not recover as she might have done
   In days when hopes abound.

"She's waving from the wharfside, palely grieving,
As down we draw . . . Her tears make little show,
Yet now she suffers more than at my leaving
   Some twenty years ago.

"I pray those left at home will care for her!
I shall come back; I have before; though when
The Girl you leave behind you is a grandmother,
   Things may not be as then."

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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