Thursday, March 03, 2016

Afterwards and Before, by Thomas Hardy and Simon Bucher-Jones

Afterwards by Thomas Hardy

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"?

If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight."

If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should
come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone."

If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at
the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?

And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things?"

Before by Simon Bucher-Jones

When you opened up your satchel to the faint morning ray,
And the homework flapped its few brown crumpled leaves,
Doodled and tangential, did your teachers say,
“Nobody that daydreams, any fame achieves” ?

If it was mid morning at Brockhampton’s small school,
Did the eight year old you see on the window, the green-gleam fly alight,
Did you note its shining carapace while seeming but a fool,
As the teacher said, “Now, Hardy – is that right?” ?

If you paused on the blackboard’s blackness, white-stone chalk a-raised,
In the hand to enscribe, when the cry of a Dorchester raven cawed,
Did Mr Last wax sarcastic and say, “Young Hardy strove to write, but was dazed,
Like a moth by a flame, like a poet by nature awed!” ?

If, when you had left school at last, to train under James Hicks
As an architect labouring with set squares, drawings, and measuring-strings,
Did they bring you no straw, to make your mental bricks,
Did they notice you notice, the least of the trembling things ?

When they heard of your fame after, who’d seen your face when young,
And who moved not where you moved, nor saw the things you grasped,
Did they think of nothing, but shrugging – off the thought as a wasp that stung,
That they had genius before them, though beyond what their hands had clasped ?

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