Before Marching and After

(in Memoriam F. W. G.)

  
       Orion swung southward aslant
       Where the starved Egdon pine-trees had thinned,
       The Pleiads aloft seemed to pant
       With the heather that twitched in the wind;
But he looked on indifferent to sights such as these,
Unswayed by love, friendship, home joy or home sorrow,
And wondered to what he would march on the morrow.
 
       The crazed household-clock with its whirr
       Rang midnight within as he stood,
       He heard the low sighing of her
       Who had striven from his birth for his good;
But he still only asked the spring starlight, the breeze,
What great thing or small thing his history would borrow
From that Game with Death he would play on the morrow.
 
       When the heath wore the robe of late summer,
       And the fuchsia-bells, hot in the sun,
       Hung red by the door, a quick comer
       Brought tidings that marching was done
For him who had joined in that game overseas
Where Death stood to win, though his name was to borrow
A brightness therefrom not to fade on the morrow.
Source: Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems (Palgrave, 2001)
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