Poem introduction

When many years ago I went to stay for a day or two with Thomas Hardy he very kindly met me at the station and he explained with a smile that there were no taxis or anything to ride in because all the people had hired them to take them to a performance of his play in Dorchester, 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'. So we walked and during our walk I heard a very odd, rather far-away mingling of birdsong which I couldn't think to place and I said, "Do you hear the birds?" and this poem is about that.

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy

Mingled the moonlight, the daylight - the last in the narrowing west;
Silence of nightfall lay over the shallowing valleys at rest
In the Earth's green breast:
Yet a small multitudinous singing, a lully of voices of birds
Unseen in the vague shelving hollows, welled up with my questioning words:
All Dorsetshire's larks for connivance of sweetness seemed trysting to greet
Him in whose song the bodings of raven and nightingale meet.

Stooping and smiling, he questioned, "No birdnotes myself do I hear?
Perhaps 'twas the talk of chance farers, abroad in the hush with us here -
In the dusk-light clear?"
And there peered from his eyes, as I listened, a concourse of women and men,
Whom his words had made living, long-suffering - they flocked to remembrance again:
"O Master," I cried in my heart, "lorn thy tidings, grievous thy song;
Yet thine, too, this solacing music, as we earth-folk stumble along."

from Collected Poems (Faber, 1979), by permission of The Literary Trustees of Walter de la Mare and The Society of Authors as their representative. Recording used by permission of the BBC.

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