6 October 2009


The Voice

By Thomas Hardy (December 1912)

WOMAN much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever consigned to existlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward
And the woman calling.

Emma Lavinia Gifford at thirty.


  1. Strange that I'm studying this poem for the Cambridge Exam Board, IGCSE Literature.

    Spooky in fact. Can't believe reading up on Hardy that he thought he was a better poet than novelist.

    It's not a lament for AA is it?

  2. BOOTHERS... After "Jude The Obscure" - Hardy's last and best novel - was lambasted by prudish London society, Hardy returned to his poetry and the one I chose is just part of a sequence of love poems that focus upon Emma Gifford and the pain of Hardy's unrealised romatic yearnings. How can you compare the craft of a novelist with the economy of a poet? You can't. By the way I was never in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)...Hic!... it's just a rumour.

  3. I don't know YP, "Jude the Obscure" depressed the hell out of me. Don't get me wrong - I adore Hardy but my personal favourite is "The Return of the Native."

    I did read a scholarly biography of him more years ago than I care to remember, but most of it has floated away on a sea of hedonistic flotsam and jetsam. I just seem to remember that he spent his last years depressed.

    Might have to dig out some of his other works in my 'read more classics' phase.

  4. Well there's something about this poem that seems to be rather good even though it's a simple but effective poem. The Thai lads in my y10 class were quite moved by it and this from students whose native tongues are very poetic.

    I know many academics today are very sniffy about Hardy's poetry though and for the main part I happen to agree with them.

    But then again many feminists are narked about his work, especially The Mayor of Casterbridge which I always found a strange one.

    Apparently they find his portrayal of women too patronising...

  5. BANGKOK BOOB Technically, one of the interesting features of this poem is the way in which the rhythm gradually and deliberately falters from a sing-song first stanza to a stuttering conclusion - rather like Hardy's own decline or the loss of his sure-footedness in living. All of us have a tendency to gild the past and this is probably what Hardy was guilty of when remembering Emma.
    I find the idea of a bunch of Thai schoolboys really appreciating this poem very odd so they must have an excellent teacher. Is Denise working with them as well?

  6. Thai songs are full of this kind of heartbreak- more so than Europe or America I think. Think country meets Morrissey (although perhaps not as bitter sweet and darkly humorous) and you might be on the right track.

    They also have a keen eye for metaphor and despite their belief in (philosophy-rather than- religion) Buddhism, they have a great understanding and respect for the supernatural which this poem does too.

    They are currently turning the poem into a script so expect a big film version soon with Jude Law as ardy and Rene Zelwegger as Emma to follow...

    As for the teacher, well what can I say, I was mentored by the best...

  7. I've never read much of Hardy's poetry. I did read "Jude the Obscure" though - - yes, great novel, but GLOOMY. Olli loves gloomy novels. I don't. Yet I'll read gloomy autobiographies. I think I prefer my gloom to be real not fictional, IF I'm going to read gloom - - which, I suspect, increasingly, I'm not.
    Actually I rather liked this poem and the way the rhythm falters.
    Perhaps I'll stop now.

  8. Hellooooo YP! It is me calling you from across the mead....


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