The Chosen

By Thomas Hardy 1840–1928 Thomas Hardy
“A woman for whom great gods might strive!”
      I said, and kissed her there:
And then I thought of the other five,
      And of how charms outwear.

I thought of the first with her eating eyes,
And I thought of the second with hers, green-gray,
And I thought of the third, experienced, wise,
And I thought of the fourth who sang all day.

And I thought of the fifth, whom I'd called a jade.
      And I thought of them all, tear-fraught;
And that each had shown her a passable maid,
      Yet not of the favour sought.

So I traced these words on the bark of a beech,
Just at the falling of the mast:
“After scanning five; yes, each and each,
I've found the woman desired – at last!”

“–I feel a strange benumbing spell,
      As one ill-wished!” said she.
And soon it seemed that something fell
      Was starving her love for me.

“I feel some curse. O, five were there?”
And wanly she swerved, and went away.
I followed sick: night numbed the air,
And dark the mournful moorland lay.

I cried: “O darling, turn your head!”
      But never her face I viewed;
“O turn, O turn!” again I said,
      And miserably pursued.

At length I came to a Christ-cross stone
Which she had passed without discern;
And I knelt upon the leaves there strown,
And prayed aloud that she might turn.

I rose, and looked; and turn she did;
      I cried, “My heart revives!”
“Look more,” she said. I looked as bid;
      Her face was all the five's.

All the five women, clear come back,
I saw in her – with her made one,
The while she drooped upon the track,
And her frail term seemed well-nigh run.

She'd half forgot me in her change;
      “Who are you? Won't you say
Who you may be, you man so strange,
      Following since yesterday?”

I took the composite form she was,
And carried her to an arbour small,
Not passion-moved, but even because
In one I could atone to all.

And there she lies, and there I tend,
      Till my life's threads unwind,
A various womanhood in blend –
      Not one, but all combined.

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Thomas Hardy 1840–1928



Subjects Love, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

 Thomas  Hardy


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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated



Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.