The Dead Man Walking

By Thomas Hardy


They hail me as one living,

But don’t they know

That I have died of late years,

Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here,

A pulseless mould,

A pale past picture, screening

Ashes gone cold.

Not at a minute’s warning,

Not in a loud hour,

For me ceased Time’s enchantments

In hall and bower.

There was no tragic transit,

No catch of breath,

When silent seasons inched me

On to this death. . . .

―A Troubadour-youth I rambled

With Life for lyre,

The beats of being raging

In me like fire.

But when I practiced eyeing

The goal of men,

It iced me, and I perished

A little then.

When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,

Through the Last Door,

And left me standing bleakly,

I died yet more;

And when my Love’s heart kindled

In hate of me,

Wherefore I knew not, died I

One more degree.

And if when I died fully

I cannot say,

And changed into the corpse-thing

I am today,

Yet is it that, though whiling

The time somehow

In walking, talking, smiling,

I live not now.

They hail me as one living,

But don’t they know

That I have died of late years,

Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here,

A pulseless mould,

A pale past picture, screening

Ashes gone cold.

Not at a minute’s warning,

Not in a loud hour,

For me ceased Time’s enchantments

In hall and bower.

There was no tragic transit,

No catch of breath,

When silent seasons inched me

On to this death. . . .

―A Troubadour-youth I rambled

With Life for lyre,

The beats of being raging

In me like fire.

But when I practiced eyeing

The goal of men,

It iced me, and I perished

A little then.

When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,

Through the Last Door,

And left me standing bleakly,

I died yet more;

And when my Love’s heart kindled

In hate of me,

Wherefore I knew not, died I

One more degree.

And if when I died fully

I cannot say,

And changed into the corpse-thing

I am today,

Yet is it that, though whiling

The time somehow

In walking, talking, smiling,

I live not now.

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