September 25, 2011

A Poem for the Day: "The Last Chrysanthemum" by Thomas Hardy

Here we are just a couple of days after the Fall Equinox, and it feels like it is time to share another favorite poem of mine.  I recently ran across a wonderful review of one of Thomas Hardy's volumes of poetry, Poems of the Past and the Present (1901), over on the Ordinary Reader's blog, and it inspired me to look through my own collections of Hardy poetry again.  I came across The Last Chrysanthemum, and it just felt like a great poem to share in celebration of the beginning of the fall season.  I hope you enjoy it too.

The Last Chrysanthemum

Why should this flower delay so long
         To show its tremulous plumes?
Now is the time of plaintive robin-song,
         When flowers are in their tombs.

Through the slow summer, when the sun
         Called to each frond and whorl
That all he could for flowers was being done,
         Why did it not uncurl?

It must have felt that fervid call
         Although it took no heed,
Waking but now, when leaves like corpses fall,
         And saps all retrocede.

Too late its beauty, lonely thing,
         The season's shine is spent,
Nothing remains for it but shivering
         In tempests turbulent.

Had it a reason for delay,
         Dreaming in witlessness
That for a bloom so delicately gay
         Winter would stay its stress?

- I talk as if the thing were born
         With sense to work its mind;
Yet it is but one mask of many worn
         By the Great Face behind.



  1. This is lovely! I didn't realize Hardy wrote poetry - thanks for posting.

  2. JoAnn, thank you for stopping by and visiting, and I'm so glad that you enjoyed the poem. Yes, Hardy was quite the poet. In fact, he always considered himself, first and foremost, a poet and an author of fiction only as a way to make money. After the reception (largely negative) of his novel, Jude the Obscure (1895), Hardy ceased writing any more fiction and concentrated his efforts for the remaining years of his life (approximately 25, or so) on his poetry. He wrote nearly 1,000 poems, and most of them are quite, quite good. Cheers! Chris

  3. Lovely! I've never read any of Hardy's poetry. I'm glad this one at least is not as depressing as his prose!

  4. Sylvia, thanks for the visit! I do encourage you to seek out and read some of Hardy's poetry, it is truly amazing stuff.

    I guess I choose to look at Hardy's fiction not so much as "depressing", but as more 'natural' and 'realistic'--much the same way that Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides wrote about human affairs. It is part of what makes me such a fan of the fiction of, for example, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Thomas Hardy--their ability to tell a story that connects with us through their characters--and that sometimes bad things do happen to good people, just like Life. In a similar vein, Hardy's poetry has the ability to bridge together and meld the natural world of his Wessex landscape with the lives and doings of his rustics. Each poem is a drama in miniature. Cheers! Chris

  5. Hey there! Just a quick note to let you know I linked this post over at Kate's Library in my "Friday Five". Have a great weekend!

  6. nice idea..thanks for sharing...