That Kiss in the Dark

Anyone who read the blog post that accompanied the launch of my Lewth shawl will be aware that I am a fan of Thomas Hardy.

Tomorrow, 2nd June 2015 is the 175th anniversary of Hardy’s birth and I will be marking this occasion with the release of my newest shawl.

Here’s a little teaser of what is to come.


But today, I thought I’d share another of Hardy’s poems.

Hardy published over 900 poems in his lifetime and, as I suggested in the ‘Lewth’ post, Hardy’s poetry often set a very different tone than his prose, and for a writer who saw himself foremost as a poet it’s a shame that his poems are so often overlooked when people think of Hardy.

John Wain in his introduction to ‘The New Wessex Selection of Thomas Hardy’s Poetry’ (Macmillan, 1978) describes Hardy as ‘a lyric poet; lyrical and reflective’, and suggests that ‘the real roots of Hardy’s poetry are the tough, clinging, gnarled but still green and flowing roots of English popular lyric verse’. It is perhaps this origin, which influences the form of Hardy’s poetry, that also led to it being largely overlooked at his own time, so out of kilter was it with dominant later 19th and early 20th century verse.

A poet of emotions rather than ideas, love looms large in many of Hardy’s poems, but it is a complex multi-facted love, ranging from yearning, tenderness, regret, need and desire and often sharpened by loss. Indeed one feature common to both Hardy’s poems and novels is the way they challenge social mores around love and sexual desire, exploring the implications of stepping outside of social convention, not only for the protagonists, but also as a reflection on society as a whole. This is true of the The Bride Night Fire which I shared with you previously.

The lyrical form of Hardy’s poems however, also opens a space for greater playfulness than is evident in some of his novels, and this is evident in both The Bride Night Fire and That Kiss at the Gate below.

The female speaker entreats her love to recall the night when path of true love was not running smoothly as he, apparently teasingly, feigns no recollection.

That Kiss in the Dark

Recall it you? –

Say you do! –

When you went out into the night,

In an impatience that would not wait,

From that lone house in the woodland spot,

And when I, thinking you had gone

For ever and ever from my sight,

Came after, printing a kiss upon

Black air

In my despair,

And my two lips lit on your cheek

As you leant silent against a gate,

Making my woman’s face flush hot

At what I had done in the dark, unware

You lingered for me but would not speak:

Yes, kissed you, thinking you were not there!

Recall it you? –

Say you do!

The text of Thomas Hardy’s 947 poems can be downloaded from the Thomas Hardy Society here.

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