() (Thomas Hardy)

The Harbour Bridge

From here, the quay, one looks above to mark
The bridge across the harbour, hanging dark
Against the days-end sky, fair-green in glow
Over and under the middle archways bow:
It draws its skeleton where the sun has set,
Yea, clear from cutwater to parapet;
On which mild glow, too, lines of rope and spar
Trace themselves black as char.

Down here in shade we hear the painters shift
Against the bollards with a drowsy lift,
As moved by the incoming stealthy tide.
High up across the bridge the burghers glide
As cut black-paper portraits hastening on
In conversation none knows what upon:
Their sharp-edged lips move quickly word by word
To speech that is not heard.

There trails the dreamful girl, who leans and stops,
There presses the practical woman to the shops,
There is a sailor, meeting his wife with a start,
And we, drawn nearer, judge they are keeping apart.
Both pause. She says: Ive looked for you. I thought
Wed make it up. Then no words can be caught.
At last: Wont you come home? She moves still nigher:
Tis comfortable, with a fire.

No, he says gloomily. And, anyhow,
I cant give up the other woman now:
You should have talked like that in former days,
When I was last home. They go different ways.
And the west dims, and yellow lamplights shine:
And soon above, like lamps more opaline,
White stars ghost forth, that care not for mens wives,
Or any other lives.


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