Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Time, To Make Me Grieve, Part Steals, Lets Part Abide": Two Poems On The Same Theme

After Thomas Hardy's death in 1928, A. S. J. Tessimond wrote the following poem:

                          Thomas Hardy

Our faltering posthumous tributes can only lie . . .
Our words, remembering his, are somehow shy . . .
Being already immortal -- strange he should die!

A. S. J. Tessimond, Collected Poems (1985).

Tessimond later wrote a poem that seems to echo one of Hardy's better-known poems.  On the other hand, it may simply be the case that the two poets visited the same theme entirely by chance.

First, Hardy's poem:

       I Look Into My Glass

I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say, 'Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!'

For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
With equanimity.

But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.

Thomas Hardy, Wessex Poems and Other Verses (1898).  Several commentators have suggested that the poem may have its origin in a passage from Hardy's diary dated October 18, 1892 (Hardy was 52 at the time):  "I look in the glass. . . . Why should a man's mind have been thrown into such close, sad, sensational, inexplicable relations with such a precarious object as his own body!"  (Leave it to Hardy to kick against a basic fact of human existence, some might say.)

                                                William MacLeod
             "Trinity Square, London, with Ruins of London Wall" (1948)

Here is Tessimond's poem:


Do men grow wholly old;
Unknowing, tire of living;
Grow deaf as pulse grows faint;
Dream and in dreams depart?

Or do they wake, feel cold
And hear  -- a salt sea grieving
In landlocked, long complaint --
The all-too-youthful heart?

A. S. J. Tessimond, Voices in a Giant City (1947).  I think that "a salt sea grieving/In landlocked, long complaint" is a fine image.  (But, of course, that may be my age showing!)

         William MacLeod, "London Wall and St Giles Cripplegate" (1941)


Barbara Wells Sarudy said...

What a lovely blog. Sorry that it took me this long to discover it. Thank you for your vision & insight.

Stephen Pentz said...

Barbara: thank you very much for your kind words. I greatly appreciate them. I'm pleased that you found your way here, regardless of when you arrived! Thanks again.