This week’s poem is another romantic one and has been recommended by Dan Thompson from Direct Workforce. Dan writes “This is my favourite, romantic poem. The idea of something as mundane as doing the washing up bringing back memoires of a perfect romantic day has always stayed with me since I first read this at school. The imagery of the glass in the river and the description of the romantic setting are both so vivid, and I love the way Hardy relates these images to the basin and chinaware. I think it is just such a lovely poem and I thought it might be nice to spread a bit of romance!”
Under The Waterfall
Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from its thickening shroud of grey.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart,
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall purl = ripple
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock,
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases runlet = small stream
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.
And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?
Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though precisely where none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalized,
Is a drinking glass:
For, down that pass
My lover and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet’s rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and it sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in a basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass we used, and the cascade’s rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.
By night, by day, when it shines or lours, lours = darkens
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turns there from sipped lovers’ wine.
I love this poem simply because it sounds so beautiful. Try reading it quietly to yourself – the gently rocking rhyming couplets which run throughout the verses make it a lovely one to listen to. And of course, as Dan points out, the poem perfectly captures the power of memory. It seems as if the speaker (most likely Emma, Hardy’s wife) is not just remembering this most romantic of days as she’s doing the washing up, but actually re-living it. Hardy does not attempt to explain or account for the human mind’s mysterious tendency towards nostalgia, but simply wonders very poetically, ‘why does plunging your arm in a bowl / full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?’
As always, let me know what you think of this week’s choice.
With many thanks to Dan Thompson.