“Beyond the Last Lamp”
(Near Tooting Common)
By Thomas Hardy
While rain, with eve in partnership,
Descended darkly, drip, drip, drip,
Beyond the last lone lamp I passed
Walking slowly, whispering sadly,
Two linked loiterers, wan, downcast:
Some heavy thought constrained each face,
And blinded them to time and place.
The pair seemed lovers, yet absorbed
In mental scenes no longer orbed
By love’s young rays. Each countenance
As it slowly, as it sadly
Caught the lamplight’s yellow glance,
Held in suspense a misery
At things which had been or might be.
When I retrod that watery way
Some hours beyond the droop of day,
Still I found pacing there the twain
Just as slowly, just as sadly,
Heedless of the night and rain.
One could but wonder who they were
And what wild woe detained them there.
Though thirty years of blur and blot
Have slid since I beheld that spot,
And saw in curious converse there
Moving slowly, moving sadly
That mysterious tragic pair,
Its olden look may linger on—
All but the couple; they have gone.
Whither? Who knows, indeed. ... And yet
To me, when nights are weird and wet,
Without those comrades there at tryst
Creeping slowly, creeping sadly,
That lone lane does not exist.
There they seem brooding on their pain,
And will, while such a lane remain.
Were you to ask me, "What is your favorite poem?", it would be this one. This poem haunts me, as it once haunted Hardy.