October 27, 2010

A Poem for the Day: "The Pine Planters" By Thomas Hardy

This morning, on a whim, I picked up Thomas Hardy's novel The Woodlanders againYes, I just read it a few months ago; but it doesn't matter at all, I just felt that I needed to read it again.  Interestingly, now that I have completed reading most of the classical ancient Greek tragedies, I am realizing just how Sophoclean this tragic tale of Hardy's is.  While folks will tell you to read Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure (and you certainly should), you would be certainly remiss in not reading his beautiful and lyrical The Woodlanders.  To reinforce the point, I am sharing Hardy's beautiful poem, written in 1909, that he mated up with his novel, The Woodlanders.  Can the man write a love poem?  What a lamentation--it simply breaks my heart every time I read this poem...

The Pine Planters
(Marty South's Reverie)


We work here together
In blast and breeze;
He fills the earth in,
I hold the trees.

He does not notice
That what I do
Keeps me from moving
And chills me through.

He has seen one fairer
I feel by his eye,
Which skims me as though
I were not by.

And since she passed here
He scarce has known
But that the woodland
Holds him alone.

I have worked here with him
Since morning shine,
He busy with his thoughts
And I with mine.

I have helped him so many,
So many days,
But never win any
Small word of praise!

Shall I not sigh to him
That I work on
Glad to be nigh to him
Though hope is gone?

Nay, though he never
Knew love like mine,
I'll bear it ever
And make no sign!


From the bundle at hand here
I take each tree,
And set it to stand, here
Always to be;
When, in a second,
As if from fear
Of Life unreckoned
Beginning here,
It starts a sighing
Through day and night,
Though while there lying
'Twas voiceless quite.

It will sigh in the morning,
Will sigh at noon,
At the winter's warning,
In wafts of June;
Grieving that never
Kind Fate decreed
It should for ever
Remain a seed,
And shun the welter
Of things without,
Unneeding shelter
From storm and drought.

Thus, all unknowing
For whom or what
We set it growing
In this bleak spot,
It still will grieve here
Throughout its time,
Unable to leave here,
Or change its clime;
Or tell the story
Of us to-day
When, halt and hoary,
We pass away.



The photograph I have included is one that I took late one evening in the Bartholomew's Cobble Preserve near Sheffield, in south-western Massachusetts.  I went back east with my oldest daughter to attend an Edith Wharton biennial conference that was being held in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  I invite you to 'click' on the photograph for the larger view.  In some respects this photograph reminds of the woodland country that Hardy's Giles Winterborne were living and working in around the little 'Wessex' hamlet of 'Little Hintock.'  I do hope that the poem and the photograph inspire you to read this beautiful novel.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about the novel if you read it.


  1. Yet another wonderful post, Christopher. Did you have this poem in mind when you shot this photograph? It looks as though you did. What a unique love poem, and beautiful. I will definitely have to pick up The Woodlanders. I've read the usual Hardy (Tess and Jude), but now I can't wait to read more! And, thank you again for including me in you list of links. I feel very humbled, as well as inspired to write more.

  2. I read The Woodlanders years ago, it's due a re-read actually. But I still remember Giles Winterborne whenever I plant a bare rooted tree, and copy how he did it. I loved the book and the glimpse into a way of life which was coming to an end as Hardy was writing about it.

  3. A heart touching poem jayashree