Said he: “You saw the Master clear;
By Rushy Pond alone he sat,
Serene and silent as a seer,
In tweedy coat and seedy hat.
You tell me you did not intrude,
(Although his book was in your hand,)
Upon his melancholy mood. . .
I do not understand.
“You did not tell him: ‘I have come
From o’er the sea to speak to you.’
You did not dare, your lips were dumb. . .
You thought a little zephyr blew
From Rushy Pond a touch of him
You’ll cherish to your dying day,
Perhaps with tears your eyes were dim. . .
And then – you went away.
“And down the years you will proclaim:
‘O call me dullard, dub me dunce!
But let this be my meed of fame:
I looked on Thomas Hardy once.
Aye, by a stile I stood a span
And with these eyes did plainly see
A little, shrinking, shabby man. . .
But Oh a god to me!'”
Said I: “‘Tis true, I scarce dared look,
Yet he would have been kind, I’m sure;
But though I clutched his precious book
I feared to beg his signature.
Ah yes, my friend, I merit mirth.
You’re bold, you have the right to laugh,
And if Christ came again to earth
You’d cadge his autograph.”