• Ariane Todes

Thomas Hardy and the violin


The great British writer Thomas Hardy was born on 2 June, 1840. His father was a fiddler in the village band and he himself also played. There are lovely vignettes of village music throughout his stories, and in 1916 he wrote this poem, reflecting on the loss of his father, through the silent violin.

My Father's Violin

Does he want you down there In the Nether Glooms where The hours may be a dragging load upon him, As he hears the axle grind Round and round Of the great world, in the blind Still profound Of the night-time? He might liven at the sound Of your string, revealing you had not forgone him.

In the gallery west the nave, But a few yards from his grave, Did you, tucked beneath his chin, to his bowing Guide the homely harmony Of the quire Who for long years strenuously – Son and sire – Caught the strains that at his fingering low or higher From your four thin threads and eff-holes came outflowing.

And, too, what merry tunes He would bow at nights or noons That chanced to find him bent to lute a measure, When he made you speak his heart As in dream, Without book or music-chart, On some theme Elusive as a jack-o'-lanthorn's gleam, And the psalm of duty shelved for trill of pleasure.

Well, you can not, alas, The barrier overpass That screens him in those Mournful Meads hereunder, Where no fiddling can be heard In the glades Of silentness, no bird Thrills the shades; Where no viol is touched for songs or serenades, No bowing wakes a congregation's wonder.

He must do without you now, Stir you no more anyhow To yearning concords taught you in your glory; While, your strings a tangled wreck, Once smart drawn, Ten worm-wounds in your neck, Purflings wan With dust-hoar, here alone I sadly con Your present dumbness, shape your olden story.

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