Thomas Hardy

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

Thoughts of Phena


at news of her death

Not a line of her writing have I
Not a thread of her hair,
No mark of her late time as dame in her dwelling, whereby
I may picture her there;
And in vain do I urge my unsight
To conceive my lost prize
At her close, whom I knew when her dreams were upbrimming with light
And with laughter her eyes.

What scenes spread around her last days,
Sad, shining, or dim?
Did her gifts and compassions enray and enarch her sweet ways
With an aureate nimb?
Or did life-light decline from her years,
And mischances control
Her full day-star; unease, or regret, or forebodings, or fears
Disennoble her soul?

Thus I do but the phantom retain
Of the maiden of yore
As my relic; yet haply the best of her--fined in my brain
It may be the more
That no line of her writing have I,
Nor a thread of her hair,
No mark of her late time as dame in her dwelling, whereby
I may picture her there.

March 1890.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bryan Baker (11/15/2012 11:27:00 PM)

    It is a sad story if true that lies behind this work, that following a five-year courtship with the subject of the poem and just as they were set to be married Hardy discovered that the two were cousins, which according to the mores and practices of the day would have marked the marriage as incestuous. They immediately broke off the engagement and never saw each other again. Years later, when Hardy learned of her death, he wrote this wonderful poem about memory, love, loss, and regret. (Report) Reply

  • Daphne Grant (3/20/2006 4:00:00 PM)

    Regrets at her passing, and he with no photo, no news of her last days. Only the distant memories of her when younger and beautiful. Who has not bee there? (Report) Reply

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