Penance

A poem by Thomas Hardy

"Why do you sit, O pale thin man,
At the end of the room
By that harpsichord, built on the quaint old plan?
It is cold as a tomb,
And there's not a spark within the grate;
And the jingling wires
Are as vain desires
That have lagged too late."

"Why do I? Alas, far times ago
A woman lyred here
In the evenfall; one who fain did so
From year to year;
And, in loneliness bending wistfully,
Would wake each note
In sick sad rote,
None to listen or see!

"I would not join. I would not stay,
But drew away,
Though the winter fire beamed brightly . . . Aye!
I do to-day
What I would not then; and the chill old keys,
Like a skull's brown teeth
Loose in their sheath,
Freeze my touch; yes, freeze."

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