The Dead Man Walking

By Thomas Hardy 1840–1928 Thomas Hardy
They hail me as one living,
      But don't they know
That I have died of late years,
      Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here,
      A pulseless mould,
A pale past picture, screening
      Ashes gone cold.

Not at a minute's warning,
      Not in a loud hour,
For me ceased Time's enchantments
      In hall and bower.

There was no tragic transit,
      No catch of breath,
When silent seasons inched me
      On to this death ....

— A Troubadour-youth I rambled
      With Life for lyre,
The beats of being raging
      In me like fire.

But when I practised eyeing
      The goal of men,
It iced me, and I perished
      A little then.

When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,
      Through the Last Door,
And left me standing bleakly,
      I died yet more;

And when my Love's heart kindled
      In hate of me,
Wherefore I knew not, died I
      One more degree.

And if when I died fully
      I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
      I am to-day,

Yet is it that, though whiling
      The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
      I live not now.

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Poet Thomas Hardy 1840–1928

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Death

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Thomas  Hardy

Biography

One of the most renowned poets and novelists in English literary history, Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in the English village of Higher Bockhampton in the county of Dorset. He died in 1928 at Max Gate, a house he built for himself and his first wife, Emma Lavinia Gifford, in Dorchester, a few miles from his birthplace. Hardy’s youth was influenced by the musicality of his father, a stonemason and fiddler, and his mother, Jemima . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Social Commentaries, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Death

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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