In 1867, Hardy was 27 years old. Yeats was 19 when he wrote "Ephemera." It is not surprising that the two young romantics might alight upon a similar theme and similar images. But in their own idiosyncratic fashions, of course.
John Nash, "Autumn, Berkshire" (1951)
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
-- They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing. . . .
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.
Thomas Hardy, Wessex Poems and Other Verses (1899).
"Neutral Tones," like "Ephemera," is a poem that I discovered in my twenties. I recall being particularly taken with: "The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing/Alive enough to have strength to die." The entire poem is evocative of that time of life, isn't it?
"The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble" (1922)
The following poem provides a nice complement to both "Neutral Tones" and "Ephemera." Serendipitously, next Monday will be "Monday the 28th of October."
I sat on a bench in Eastville Park
It was Monday the 28th of October
I am your old intentions she said
And all your old intentions are over.
She stood beside me, I did not see her
Her shadow fell on Eastville Park
Not precise or shapely but spreading outwards
On the tatty grass of Eastville Park.
A swan might buckle its yellow beak
With the black of its eye and the black of its mouth
In a shepherd's crook, or the elms impend
Nothing of this could be said aloud.
I did not then sit on a bench
I was a shadow under a tree
I was a leaf the wind carried
Around the edge of the football game.
No need for any return for I find
Myself where I left myself -- in the lurch
There are no trams but I remember them
Wherever I went I came here first.
C. H. Sisson, Anchises (Carcanet 1976). Eastville Park is in Bristol, where Sisson was born and raised.
Sisson's use of "impend" in "the elms impend" (line 11) is lovely: he combines the word's usual emotional sense (e.g., "impending doom") with its less commonly used physical sense: "to hang over" or "to overhang."
John Nash, "The Garden" (1951)