Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me

I woke up with this poem in my head. It's strictly called 'The Voice' but I always think of it by that haunting first line, 'how you call to me, call to me'... Thomas Hardy was obsessed by ghosts (especially ghosts of women, I think) and the ghostly presence in this poem is his first wife Emma, whose death is the subject of most of the verses in Hardy's Poems 1912-13.

'Wistlessness' in the third verse is one of Hardy's typical negations, like 'unhope' in In Tenebris I - not strictly a neologism (as the internet, not having consulted its OED, will tell you) but rather a revival of an archaic word meaning 'unknowing'.

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 dissolved to wan wistlessness,
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.

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