Thomas Hardy ( )

The Well-Beloved

I went by star and planet shine
Towards the dear ones home
At Kingsbere, there to make her mine
When the next sun upclomb.

I edged the ancient hill and wood
Beside the Ikling Way,
Nigh where the Pagan temple stood
In the worlds earlier day.

And as I quick and quicker walked
On gravel and on green,
I sang to sky, and tree, or talked
Of her I called my queen.

 O faultless is her dainty form,
And luminous her mind;
She is the God-created norm
Of perfect womankind!

A shape whereon one star-blink gleamed
Slid softly by my side,
A womans; and her motion seemed
The motion of my bride.

And yet methought shed drawn erstwhile
Out from the ancient leaze,
Where once were pile and peristyle
For mens idolatries.

 O maiden lithe and lone, what may
Thy name and lineage be
Who so resemblest by this ray
My darling?  Art thou she?

The Shape: Thy bride remains within
Her fathers grange and grove.
 Thou speakest rightly, I broke in,
Thou art not she I love.

 Nay: though thy bride remains inside
Her fathers walls, said she,
The one most dear is with thee here,
For thou dost love but me.

Then I: But she, my only choice,
Is now at Kingsbere Grove?
Again her soft mysterious voice:
I am thy only Love.

Thus still she vouched, and still I said,
O sprite, that cannot be! . . . 
It was as if my bosom bled,
So much she troubled me.

The sprite resumed: Thou hast transferred
To her dull form awhile
My beauty, fame, and deed, and word,
My gestures and my smile.

O fatuous man, this truth infer,
Brides are not what they seem;
Thou lovest what thou dreamest her;
I am thy very dream!

 O then, I answered miserably,
Speaking as scarce I knew,
My loved one, I must wed with thee
If what thou sayest be true!

She, proudly, thinning in the gloom:
Though, since troth-plight began,
I have ever stood as bride to groom,
I wed no mortal man!

Thereat she vanished by the lane
Adjoining Kingsbere town,
Near where, men say, once stood the Fane
To Venus, on the Down.

 When I arrived and met my bride
Her look was pinched and thin,
As if her soul had shrunk and died,
And left a waste within.

Thomas Hardy's other poems:
  1. The Collector Cleans His Picture
  2. Dream of the City Shopwoman
  3. To My Fathers Violin
  4. If Its Ever Spring Again
  5. The Wanderer

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