Shadow on the Stone

With Halloween just 10 days away, I wanted to share some of my favourite seasonal/spine tingling poetry. This is a poem by Thomas Hardy, one of my favourite authors/poets, his books and verse are full of references to nature and paganism. Who can forget Tess of the D’Urbervilles resigned capture at Stone Henge. Thomas Hardy lost his first wife Emma Gifford in 1912. This poem was begun in 1913 but not completed until 1916. They were estranged when she died and he was deeply traumatised. The image is the actual ‘Druid Stone’ from Max Gate, Dorset where Thomas Hardy lived (image from National Trust Collection)

The verse itself is thick with atmosphere; grief and regret…..see what you think.

The Shadow on the Stone – Thomas Hardy

I went by the Druid stone

That broods in the garden white and lone,

And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows

That at some moments fall thereon

From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,

And they shaped in my imagining

To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders

Threw there when she was gardening.

I thought her behind my back,

Yea, her I long had learned to lack,

And I said ‘I am sure you are standing behind me,

Though how do you get into this old track?’

And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf

As a sad response: and to keep down grief

I would not turn my head to discover

That there was nothing in my belief.

Yet I wanted to look and see

That nobody stood at the back of me;

But I thought once more ‘Nay I’ll not unvision

A shape which, somehow, there may be’

So I went on softly from the glade,

And left her behind me throwing her shade,

As she were indeed an apparition-

My head unturned lest my dream should fade.

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