Wessex Heights’ by Thomas Hardy, December 1896
There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand
For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand,
Say, on Ingpen Beacon* eastward, or on Wylls-Neck* westwardly,
I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man’s friend –
Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to mend:
Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where one’s next neighbour is the sky.
In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways –
Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days:
They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things –
Men with a wintry sneer, and women with tart disparagings.**
Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was,
And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause
Can have merged him into such a strange continuator*** as this,
Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis. ****
I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there’s a figure against the moon,
Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune;
I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now passed
For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There’s a ghost at Yell’ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the night,
There’s a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin lipped and vague, in a shroud of white,
There is one in the railway-train whenever I do not want it near,
I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers,
I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers;
Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know;
Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west,
Or else on homely Bulbarrow,* or little Pilsdon Crest,*
Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me,
And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.