The Seven Times

A poem by Thomas Hardy

The dark was thick. A boy he seemed at that time
Who trotted by me with uncertain air;
"I'll tell my tale," he murmured, "for I fancy
A friend goes there? . . . "

Then thus he told. "I reached 'twas for the first time -
A dwelling. Life was clogged in me with care;
I thought not I should meet an eyesome maiden,
But found one there.

"I entered on the precincts for the second time -
'Twas an adventure fit and fresh and fair -
I slackened in my footsteps at the porchway,
And found her there.

"I rose and travelled thither for the third time,
The hope-hues growing gayer and yet gayer
As I hastened round the boscage of the outskirts,
And found her there.

"I journeyed to the place again the fourth time
(The best and rarest visit of the rare,
As it seemed to me, engrossed about these goings),
And found her there.

"When I bent me to my pilgrimage the fifth time
(Soft-thinking as I journeyed I would dare
A certain word at token of good auspice),
I found her there.

"That landscape did I traverse for the sixth time,
And dreamed on what we purposed to prepare;
I reached a tryst before my journey's end came,
And found her there.

"I went again long after aye, the seventh time;
The look of things was sinister and bare
As I caught no customed signal, heard no voice call,
Nor found her there.

"And now I gad the globe day, night, and any time,
To light upon her hiding unaware,
And, maybe, I shall nigh me to some nymph-niche,
And find her there!"

" But how," said I, "has your so little lifetime
Given roomage for such loving, loss, despair?
A boy so young!" Forthwith I turned my lantern
Upon him there.

His head was white. His small form, fine aforetime,
Was shrunken with old age and battering wear,
An eighty-years long plodder saw I pacing
Beside me there.

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