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The Supplanter: A Tale

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

He bends his travel-tarnished feet 
 To where she wastes in clay: 
From day-dawn until eve he fares 
 Along the wintry way; 
From day-dawn until eve repairs 
 Unto her mound to pray. 


"Are these the gravestone shapes that meet 
 My forward-straining view? 
Or forms that cross a window-blind 
 In circle, knot, and queue: 
Gay forms, that cross and whirl and wind 
 To music throbbing through?" - 


"The Keeper of the Field of Tombs 
 Dwells by its gateway-pier; 
He celebrates with feast and dance 
 His daughter's twentieth year: 
He celebrates with wine of France 
 The birthday of his dear." - 


"The gates are shut when evening glooms: 
 Lay down your wreath, sad wight; 
To-morrow is a time more fit 
 For placing flowers aright: 
The morning is the time for it; 
 Come, wake with us to-night!" - 


He grounds his wreath, and enters in, 
 And sits, and shares their cheer. - 
"I fain would foot with you, young man, 
 Before all others here; 
I fain would foot it for a span 
 With such a cavalier!" 


She coaxes, clasps, nor fails to win 
 His first-unwilling hand: 
The merry music strikes its staves, 
 The dancers quickly band; 
And with the damsel of the graves 
 He duly takes his stand. 


"You dance divinely, stranger swain, 
 Such grace I've never known. 
O longer stay! Breathe not adieu 
 And leave me here alone! 
O longer stay: to her be true 
 Whose heart is all your own!" - 


"I mark a phantom through the pane, 
 That beckons in despair, 
Its mouth all drawn with heavy moan - 
 Her to whom once I sware!" - 
"Nay; 'tis the lately carven stone 
 Of some strange girl laid there!" - 


"I see white flowers upon the floor 
 Betrodden to a clot; 
My wreath were they?"--"Nay; love me much, 
 Swear you'll forget me not! 
'Twas but a wreath! Full many such 
 Are brought here and forgot." 

* * * 


The watches of the night grow hoar, 
 He rises ere the sun; 
"Now could I kill thee here!" he says, 
 "For winning me from one 
Who ever in her living days 
 Was pure as cloistered nun!" 


She cowers, and he takes his track 
 Afar for many a mile, 
For evermore to be apart 
 From her who could beguile 
His senses by her burning heart, 
 And win his love awhile. 


A year: and he is travelling back 
 To her who wastes in clay; 
From day-dawn until eve he fares 
 Along the wintry way, 
From day-dawn until eve repairs 
 Unto her mound to pray. 


And there he sets him to fulfil 
 His frustrate first intent: 
And lay upon her bed, at last, 
 The offering earlier meant: 
When, on his stooping figure, ghast 
 And haggard eyes are bent. 


"O surely for a little while 
 You can be kind to me! 
For do you love her, do you hate, 
 She knows not--cares not she: 
Only the living feel the weight 
 Of loveless misery! 


"I own my sin; I've paid its cost, 
 Being outcast, shamed, and bare: 
I give you daily my whole heart, 
 Your babe my tender care, 
I pour you prayers; and aye to part 
 Is more than I can bear!" 


He turns--unpitying, passion-tossed; 
 "I know you not!" he cries, 
"Nor know your child. I knew this maid, 
 But she's in Paradise!" 
And swiftly in the winter shade 
 He breaks from her and flies.