Iamb, I Said #5

Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?

“Ah, are you digging on my grave
My loved one?—planting rue?”
—“No, yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
‘It cannot hurt her now,’ he said,
‘That I should not be true.’”

“Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?”
—“Ah, no; they sit and think, ‘What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death’s gin.’”

“But some one digs upon my grave?
My enemy?—prodding sly?”
—“Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.”

“Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say—since I have not guessed!”
—“O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest.”

“Ah yes! You dig upon my grave . . .
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog’s fidelity!”

“Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting-place.”

Thomas Hardy

One Response to “Iamb, I Said #5”

  1. Don Kehn Says:

    WE found ourselves near Dorchester, so we turned in there to visit Thomas Hardy, whom we had met not long before when he carne to Oxford to get his honorary doctor’s degree. We found him active and gay, with none of the aphasia and wandering attention that we had noticed in him at Oxford.

    I wrote out a record of the conversation we had with him…. He said that he regarded professional critics as parasites no less noxious than autograph hunters, and wished the world rid of them. He also wished that he had not listened to them when he was a young man; on their advice he had cut out dialect-words from his early poems, though they had no exact synonyms to fit the context. And still the critics were plaguing him. One of them recently complained of a poem of his where he had written `his shape smalled in the distance’. Now what in the world else could he have written? Hardy then laughed a little and said that once or twice recently he had looked up a word in the dictionary for fear of being again accused of coining, and had found it there right enough — only to read on and find that the sole authority quoted was himself in a half-forgotten novel! He talked of early literary influences, and said that he had none at all, for he did not come of literary stock. Then he corrected himself and said that a friend, a fellow-apprentice in the architect’s office where he worked as a young man, used to lend him books. (His taste in literature was certainly most unexpected. Once when Lawrence had ventured to say something disparaging against Homer’s Iliad, he protested: `Oh, but I admire the Iliad greatly. Why, it’s in the Marmion class!’ Lawrence could not at first believe that Hardy was not making a little joke.)

    from Robert Graves, GOODBYE TO ALL THAT (1929).

    I have admired Hardy (& Lawrence) since college, and still do. The funny little anecdote inserted at the end really lifted my spirits…which are always in need of it.

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