There is sadness, but with a quiet acceptance, in Hardy’s recall of the optimism of his ‘heydays’. He has come to an accommodation with old age. long life and a resignation which will take him content into his everlasting ‘slumber’.
Regret not me; Beneath the sunny tree I lie uncaring, slumbering peacefully.
Swift as the light I flew my faery flight; Ecstatically I moved, and feared no night.
I did not know That heydays fade and go, But deemed that what was would be always so.
I skipped at morn Between the yellowing corn, Thinking it good and glorious to be born.
I ran at eves Among the piled-up sheaves, Dreaming, “I grieve not, therefore nothing grieves.”
Now soon will come The apple, pear, and plum And hinds will sing, and autumn insects hum.
Again you will fare To cider-makings rare, And junketings; but I shall not be there.
Yet gaily sing Until the pewter ring Those songs we sang when we went gipsying.
And lightly dance Some triple-timed romance In coupled figures, and forget mischance;
And mourn not me Beneath the yellowing tree; For I shall mind not, slumbering peacefully
‘Thomas Hardy’ (1840-1928) by Walter William Ouless (National Portrait Gallery)
Readers may find it interesting to compare and contrast the lyrics of the classic Edith Piaf song . . .
I posted Wordsworth’s poem ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’ on the 1st August 2016. Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems are laden with wistfulness and melancholy, but the simplicity and delicacy of their language, and the directness and aptness of their rhyme, have always touched me with their beauty and tenderness. Below I print another of these short poems from the ‘Lucy’ series, usually known by their first line … ‘A Slumber did my Spirit Seal’
Burne-Jones … ‘Sleeping Beauty’
A Slumber did my Spirit Seal
A slumber did my spirit seal; I had no human fears: She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, With rocks, and stones, and trees.