The Voice

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me
But as at first, when our day was fair. Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown! Or is it only the breeze, in it listlessness
Traveling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?       Thus I, faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling. –Thomas Hardy

This poem was written in December 1912 in mourning after the death of Hardy’s wife. As is indicated in the poem, upon her death he recalled the early days of their marriage, when they were happy together, with great longing and regret. “The Voice” also offers, by itself, an education in versification. The poem offers examples of a four-footed line that is in dactylic instead of iambic meter. The dactylic foot has three syllables following this pattern: TUM ta ta. To understand how dactyls sound, recall the line:

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men….

The first three stanzas alternate lines of tetrameter and trimeter, like ballad verse. The three-footed lines also have an extra, emphasized syllable at the end of the line (as does “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men”). The last stanza has three lines of trochaic trimeter and one line of two dactyls and two trochees. A trochaic foot follows the pattern TUM ta, the opposite of an iamb. Using a slash to indicate “beats” or emphasized syllables, a “u” to indicate unemphasized syllables, and leaving the punctuation in as a guide, the poem’s verse pattern can be diagrammed, showing that good verse does not need to fit its metrical pattern perfectly: /uu /,uu /uu, /uu,
/uu /uu /uu /
/uu /uu /uu /uu
/uu /,uu /u/ /uu /uu /? uu /uu,
/uu uu/ uu / u /! /uu /uu /,uu /uu
/uu /uu /uu /?
/uu /uu /uu /uu,
/uu u/ /u /? /u /u /u,
/u /u /u,
/uu /uu /u /u,
/u /u /u.