Sunday 21 April 2024

'A Man Was Drawing Near to Me'

 This morning, I thought I'd try another Blindfold Poetry Selection. The slim volume I blindly took from the shelf turned out to be A Choice of Thomas Hardy's Poems – an attractive little book edited by Geoffrey Grigson, illustrated by Glynn Thomas, and published by Macmillan – and the poem it fell open at was 'A Man Was Drawing Near to Me'. I hadn't remembered reading it before, though I must have done: once, years ago, I even embarked on a doomed venture to read the Collected Poems, a volume of some 900 pages. Hardy, like many another poet, wrote too much, but the best of it is, for all its sometimes tortuous diction, very fine indeed. 'A Man Was Drawing Near to Me' is a haunting, mysterious affair – who is this man drawing near, and what does his 'gaze that bore My destiny' reveal? It could almost have been written by Walter de la Mare, though the result would have been smoother and more musical. The place names, by the way, are all from north Cornwall...

    On that gray night of mournful drone,
    Apart from aught to hear, to see,
    I dreamt not that from shires unknown
    In gloom, alone,
    By Halworthy,
    A man was drawing near to me.

    I'd no concern at anything,
    No sense of coming pull-heart play;
    Yet, under the silent outspreading
    Of even's wing
    Where Otterham lay,
    A man was riding up my way.

    I thought of nobody – not of one,
    But only of trifles – legends, ghosts –
    Though, on the moorland dim and dun
    That travellers shun
    About these coasts,
    The man had passed Tresparret Posts.

    There was no light at all inland,
    Only the seaward pharos-fire,
    Nothing to let me understand
    That hard at hand
    By Hennett Byre
    The man was getting nigh and nigher.

    There was a rumble at the door,
    A draught disturbed the drapery,
    And but a minute passed before,
    With gaze that bore
    My destiny,
    The man revealed himself to me.

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