A Poem by Thomas Hardy
How smartly the quarters of the hour march by
That the jack-o’-clock never forgets;
Ding-dong; and before I have traced a cusp’s eye,
Or got the true twist of the ogee over,
A double ding-dong ricochetts.
Just so did he clang here before I came,
And so will he clang when I’m gone
Through the Minster’s cavernous hollows–the same
Tale of hours never more to be will he deliver
To the speechless midnight and dawn!
I grow to conceive it a call to ghosts,
Whose mould lies below and around.
Yes; the next “Come, come,” draws them out from their posts,
And they gather, and one shade appears, and another,
As the eve-damps creep from the ground.
See – a Courtenay stands by his quatre-foiled tomb,
And a Duke and his Duchess near;
And one Sir Edmund in columned gloom,
And a Saxon king by the presbytery chamber;
And shapes unknown in the rear.
Maybe they have met for a parle on some plan
To better ail-stricken mankind;
I catch their cheepings, though thinner than
The overhead creak of a passager’s pinion
When leaving land behind.
Or perhaps they speak to the yet unborn,
And caution them not to come
To a world so ancient and trouble-torn,
Of foiled intents, vain loving kindness,
And ardours chilled and numb.
They waste to fog as I stir and stand,
And move from the arched recess,
And pick up the drawing that slipped from my hand,
And feel for the pencil I dropped in the cranny
In a moment’s forgetfulness.