I love this poem – like many that I’m reading regularly at the moment, it’s one I’m teaching and I almost always find that the ones which strike me first have more to them when you dig deeper asw ell. This haunts the reader – there’s such a cold bleak sense of winter in it, that you can’t help but see the pond. Although Hardy wrote many novels, I think I prefer his poetry more – to me his novels are often quite unwieldy, but his poetry is like snapshots, captured and complete.
We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
– They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….
Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.