Thomas Hardy

In Sherborne Abbey

The moon has passed to the panes of the south-aisle wall,
And brought the mullioned shades and shines to fall
On the cheeks of a woman and man in a pew there, pressed
Together as they pant, and recline for rest.

Forms round them loom, recumbent like their own,
Yet differing; for they are chiselled in frigid stone;
In doublets are some; some mailed, as whilom ahorse they leapt;
And stately husbands and wives, side by side as they anciently slept.

‘We are not like those,’ she murmurs. ‘For ever here set!’
‘True, Love,’ he replies. ‘We two are not marble yet.’
‘And, worse,’ said she; ‘not husband and wife!’
‘But we soon shall be’ (from him) ‘if we’ve life!’
A silence. A trotting of horses is heard without.
The lovers scarce breathe till its echo has quite died out.

‘It was they! They have passed, anyhow!’
‘Our horse, slily hid by the conduit,
They’ve missed, or they’d rushed to impound it!’
‘And they’ll not discover us now.’
‘Will not, until ’tis too late,
And we can outface them straight!’

‘Why did you make me ride in your front?’ says she.
‘To outwit the law. That was my strategy.
As I was borne off on the pillion behind you,
Th’abductor was you, Dearest, let me remind you;
And seizure of me by an heiress is no felony,
Whatever to do with me as the seizer may be.’

Another silence sinks. And a cloud comes over the moon:
The print of the panes upon them enfeebles, as fallen in a swoon,
Until they are left in darkness unbroke and profound,
As likewise are left their chill and chiselled neighbours around.

A Family tradition

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