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The Tree: An Old Mans Story

Written by: Thomas Hardy | Biography
 | Quotes (33) |

Its roots are bristling in the air 
Like some mad Earth-god's spiny hair; 
The loud south-wester's swell and yell 
Smote it at midnight, and it fell. 
 Thus ends the tree 
 Where Some One sat with me. 


Its boughs, which none but darers trod, 
A child may step on from the sod, 
And twigs that earliest met the dawn 
Are lit the last upon the lawn. 
 Cart off the tree 
 Beneath whose trunk sat we! 


Yes, there we sat: she cooed content, 
And bats ringed round, and daylight went; 
The gnarl, our seat, is wrenched and sunk, 
Prone that queer pocket in the trunk 
 Where lay the key 
 To her pale mystery. 


"Years back, within this pocket-hole 
I found, my Love, a hurried scrawl 
Meant not for me," at length said I; 
"I glanced thereat, and let it lie: 
 The words were three - 
 'Beloved, I agree.' 


"Who placed it here; to what request 
It gave assent, I never guessed. 
Some prayer of some hot heart, no doubt, 
To some coy maiden hereabout, 
 Just as, maybe, 
 With you, Sweet Heart, and me." 


She waited, till with quickened breath 
She spoke, as one who banisheth 
Reserves that lovecraft heeds so well, 
To ease some mighty wish to tell: 
 "'Twas I," said she, 
 "Who wrote thus clinchingly. 


"My lover's wife--aye, wife!--knew nought 
Of what we felt, and bore, and thought . . . 
He'd said: 'I wed with thee or die: 
She stands between, 'tis true. But why? 
 Do thou agree, 
 And--she shalt cease to be.' 


"How I held back, how love supreme 
Involved me madly in his scheme 
Why should I say? . . . I wrote assent 
(You found it hid) to his intent . . . 
 She--DIED . . . But he 
 Came not to wed with me. 


"O shrink not, Love!--Had these eyes seen 
But once thine own, such had not been! 
But we were strangers . . . Thus the plot 
Cleared passion's path.--Why came he not 
 To wed with me? . . . 
 He wived the gibbet-tree." 


- Under that oak of heretofore 
Sat Sweetheart mine with me no more: 
By many a Fiord, and Strom, and Fleuve 
Have I since wandered . . . Soon, for love, 
 Distraught went she - 
 'Twas said for love of me.