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My Spirit Will Not Haunt the Mound(1914)

Thomas Hardy

My spirit will not haunt the mound
MeterMy spirit will not haunt the mound
Above my breast,
MeterAbove my breast,
But travel, memory possessed,
MeterBut travel, memory possessed,
To where my tremulous being found
MeterTo where my tremulous being found
Life largest, best.
MeterLife largest, best.

My phantom-footed shape will go
MeterMy phantom-footed shape will go
When nightfall grays
MeterWhen nightfall grays
Hither and thither along the ways
MeterHither and thither along the ways
I and another used to know
MeterI and another used to know
In backward days.
MeterIn backward days.

And there you’ll find me, if a jot
MeterAnd there you’ll find me, if a jot
You still should care
MeterYou still should care
For me, and for my curious air;
MeterFor me, and for my curious air;
If otherwise, then I shall not,
MeterIf otherwise, then I shall not,
For you, be there.
MeterFor you, be there.

Note on line 15: The iambic matter-of-factness that has made the fully enjambed, totally unpunctuated second stanza so remarkably placid would seem to call for a forthright iambic scansion here in the last line too. Not just rhyme but also the poem’s focus on questions of place justify stress on “there.” But it’s the subversive genius of this poem to raise as well, at the next-to-last minute, the more basic question of being, by raising the pitch of the voice as it reads “be.” This little turn of phrase calls out the premise of postmortem existence on which the entire thought experiment is grounded. If you no longer care about me after I’m gone, then I’ll no longer “be.” At least not for you I won’t. And whose loss will that be?


Rhyme
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