“Voices From Things Growing in a Churchyard” by Thomas Hardy

Graves & trees in Mill Road Cemetery (click on photo to enlarge)
One of my favourite poems is called “Voices From Things Growing in a Churchyard” by Thomas Hardy. It speaks powerfully and fairly straighforwardly to my strong religious naturalist inclinations. But, because Hardy wrote it at a time when he had let go Christianity as a formal religion to be followed but yet remained committed to a kind of practical, Christian ethics, it is a poem which also speaks to my own rejection of Christian metaphysics whilst still finding myself compelled to commit to trying to follow the ethical example of Jesus as a human being rather than as divine being, even very God of very God. 

I first came across the poem many years ago thanks to my love of the music of Gerald Finzi who set the poem, to my mind, quite beautifully. You can hear a version of that at this link.

Anyway, Susanna and I had to run a few errands down Mill Road this afternoon and we walked back home via the wonderful Mill Road Cemetery. This is a place which, perhaps not surprisingly, always brings back to my mind Hardy’s poem. I didn’t take many photos today for the the light was far from great but the photo at the head of this post did present itself to me and triggered the writing of this post. I hope you enjoy the photo but, far more than that, I hope you enjoy Hardy’s poem and Finzi’s setting of it.

Voices From Things Growing in a Churchyard
by Thomas Hardy

These flowers are I, poor Fanny Hurd,
Sir or Madam,
A little girl here sepultured.
Once I flit-fluttered like a bird
Above the grass, as now I wave
In daisy shapes above my grave,
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

I am one Bachelor Bowring, “Gent,”
Sir or Madam;
In shingled oak my bones were pent;
Hence more than a hundred years I spent
In my feat of change from a coffin-thrall
To a dancer in green as leaves on a wall.
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

I, these berries of juice and gloss,
Sir or Madam,
Am clean forgotten as Thomas Voss;
Thin-urned, I have burrowed away from the moss
That covers my sod, and have entered this yew,
And turned to clusters ruddy of view,
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

The Lady Gertrude, proud, high-bred,
Sir or Madam,
Am I — this laurel that shades your head;
Into its veins I have stilly sped,
And made them of me; and my leaves now shine,
As did my satins superfine,
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

I, who as innocent withwind climb,
Sir or Madam.
Am one Eve Greensleeves, in olden time
Kissed by men from many a clime,
Beneath sun, stars, in blaze, in breeze,
As now by glowworms and by bees,
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

I’m old Squire Audeley Grey, who grew,
Sir or Madam,
Aweary of life, and in scorn withdrew;
Till anon I clambered up anew
As ivy-green, when my ache was stayed,
And in that attire I have longtime gayed
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

And so they breathe, these masks, to each
Sir or Madam
Who lingers there, and their lively speech
Affords an interpreter much to teach,
As their murmurous accents seem to come
Thence hitheraround in a radiant hum,
All day cheerily,
All night eerily!

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