A Sign-Seeker by Thomas Hardy

A Sign-Seeker by Thomas Hardy

A Sign-Seeker by Thomas Hardy is a wonderful graveyard poem that I recently became aware of. Therefore, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to share it here with you. Also, I will showcase some of my favourite graveyard photographs that I feel complement his poetry.

A Sign-Seeker graveyard poem by Thomas Hardy
Church of St John Lee, Acomb, Northumberland

Graveyard Poets

To begin with, in the 18th Century, several English poets began writing about their theories of mortality and describing the graveyard in glorious detail. More importantly, they are challenging your views of life and what becomes of us all following death. 

At this time, I am only just beginning my exploration of Graveyard Poets. From my research so far, they are often recognised as the precursors of the Gothic literary genre and the Romantic movement.  

A Sign-Seeker By Thomas Hardy

I MARK the months in liveries dank and dry,
The day-tides many-shaped and hued;
I see the nightfall shades subtrude,
And hear the monotonous hours clang negligently by.

I view the evening bonfires of the sun
On hills where morning rains have hissed;
The eyeless countenance of the mist
Pallidly rising when the summer droughts are done.

I have seen the lightning-blade, the leaping star,
The caldrons of the sea in storm,
Have felt the earthquake’s lifting arm,
And trodden where abysmal fires and snowcones are.

I learn to prophesy the hid eclipse,
The coming of eccentric orbs;
To mete the dust the sky absorbs,
To weigh the sun, and fix the hour each planet dips.

I witness fellow earth-men surge and strive;
Assemblies meet, and throb, and part;
Death’s soothing finger, sorrow’s smart;
–All the vast various moils that mean a world alive.

In your darkest hour
In your darkest hour do you choose to see the light or do you dwell in the dark?

A Sign-Seeker continues…

But that I fain would wot of shuns my sense–
Those sights of which old prophets tell,
Those signs the general word so well,
Vouchsafed to their unheed, denied my watchings tense.

In graveyard green, behind his monument
To glimpse a phantom parent, friend,
Wearing his smile, and “Not the end!”
Outbreathing softly: that were blest enlightenment;

Or, if a dead Love’s lips, whom dreams reveal
When midnight imps of King Decay
Delve sly to solve me back to clay,
Should leave some print to prove her spirit-kisses real;

Or, when Earth’s Frail lie bleeding of her Strong,
If some Recorder, as in Writ,
Near to the weary scene should flit
And drop one plume as pledge that Heaven inscrolls the wrong.

–There are who, rapt to heights of trancéd trust,
These tokens claim to feel and see,
Read radiant hints of times to be–
Of heart to heart returning after dust to dust.

Such scope is granted not my powers indign…
I have lain in dead men’s beds, have walked
The tombs of those with whom I’d talked,
Called many a gone and goodly one to shape a sign,

And panted for response. But none replies;
No warnings loom, nor whisperings
To open out my limitings,
And Nescience mutely muses: When a man falls he lies.

My favourite verse of a Sign-Seeker

I doubt very much that Hardy was imagining vampires when while writing this however, I can’t get this notion out of my mind. Additional information about Thomas Hardy is waiting for you here.

Or, if a dead Love’s lips, whom dreams reveal
When midnight imps of King Decay
Delve sly to solve me back to clay,
Should leave some print to prove her spirit-kisses real;

An Irish graveyard at sunset
An Irish graveyard at sunset

Summarising Graveyards

As I begin exploring an Irish graveyard at sunset, my senses are filled with wonder. Undoubtedly, I begin exploring the shadows of my mind with the feelings that I am creating. Such feelings are not of fear, but of intrigue. Moreover, it is the contrasting light of the sky that keeps me feeling safe. Complete darkness however, should it begin creeping in, unnerves me. Thus, what I am seeing, what the light gives is what I am holding onto.

Sometimes, the blanket of darkness is comforting, especially when we are feeling safe. Such darkness is good for hiding and resting our mind. In a strange place however, when we have trouble seeing, our senses of fight or flight begin building. Our fear begins to rise but, do you control your feelings, or do you escape to the comfort and safety of light?