You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
– I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?
From this beautiful poem came the title of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Thomas Hardy, The Time-Torn Man. The biography itself is delightful and certainly the one of choice for anyone interested in Hardy. The plaintive, echoing lines that frame the stanzas capture his sense of loss. The certainty of the ‘you did not come’ in comparison with the progressively less certain second stanza increases the effect of this insecurity. I have quoted this poem from the Penguin edition of poems selected by Claire Tomalin, which The Sunday Times described as, ‘Some of the loveliest poems in the English language’. This edition is lovely indeed in itself, with a cream background and a flowing pattern of soft red flowers and leaves with gold writing. It is almost pocket sized – it certainly fits into my handbag – and is a lovely indulgence for a commute, break or tea time treat.