I have read the following poem a few times over the years, but I fear that I let much of it pass me by in the past. On the surface, it may be viewed as a sly commentary on the proverbial phrase "sowing one's wild oats." To wit: we usually reap what we sow. It is just the sort of irony that Hardy was wont to fasten upon. But beneath the ostensibly simple surface a great deal of artifice is at work.
When Oats Were Reaped
That day when oats were reaped, and wheat was ripe, and barley ripening,
The road-dust hot, and the bleaching grasses dry,
I walked along and said,
While looking just ahead to where some silent people lie:
'I wounded one who's there, and now know well I wounded her;
But, ah, she does not know that she wounded me!'
And not an air stirred,
Nor a bill of any bird; and no response accorded she.
Thomas Hardy, Human Shows, Far Phantasies, Songs and Trifles (1925).
Of course, there is the sound. In line 1: "reaped . . . ripe . . . ripening." In line 5: "wounded one . . . well . . . wounded." The rhyming of "said" at the end of line 3 with "ahead" in the middle of line 4. And a repeat of that rhyming technique with "stirred" at the end of line 7 and "bird" in the middle of line 8.
Then there are the fine phrases. In line 4, Hardy refers to a place up ahead "where some silent people lie." Why did he not simply call it a "cemetery" or a "graveyard"? (Assuming that a rhyme could be found.) First, because, for Hardy (both in his life and in his art), the dead are never really dead, but are always with us. Second, because the silence of these people -- and of this person in particular -- is crucial to the poem: "no response accorded she."
I love the "ah" in line 6: "But, ah, she does not know that she wounded me!" Read the line without the "ah" and see if it makes a difference. I also like the ambiguity of the line (and, thus, of the poem as a whole). (Although perhaps it is just me being slow on the uptake that makes it seem ambiguous.) Is the speaker relieved that the dead woman never had to suffer guilt or grief for having wounded him, and now sleeps in peace? Or, is the speaker perturbed because the dead woman never had to suffer guilt or grief for having wounded him, and now sleeps in peace?
James McIntosh Patrick, "Autumn, Kinnordy" (1936)