[Thanks to Dr Anthony Fincham and the Thomas Hardy Society both for the ceremony and for encouraging the inclusion of this program in The Victorian Web. Especial thanks are due Westminster Abbey and its clergy for their part in the wreath laying. Colour photographs by Jacqueline Banerjee.]


Good afternoon and on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, a very warm welcome to the members and friends of the Thomas Hardy Society. We are gathered here to remember Thomas Hardy upon the anniversary of his death in 1928, to give thanks for the variety of his work, especially in this year which marks the 120th anniversary of the publication of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and to lay a wreath of Stinsford Yew upon the grave containing his ashes.

Thanks and Short Address

Dr Anthony Fincham will thank the Dean and Chapter on behalf of the Thomas Hardy Society and will say a few words about Thomas Hardy and this anniversary year.

The Impercipient — Read by Andrew Leah

That with this bright believing band
     I have no claim to be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
     Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage — mists their Shining Land,
     Is a strange destiny.

Why thus my soul should be consigned
     To infelicity,
Why always I must feel as bund
     To sights my brethre see,
Why joys they've found I cannot find,
     Abides a mystery.

Since heart of mine knows not that ease
     Which they know; since it be
That He who breaths All's Well to these
     Breathes no Alps — Well to me,
My lack might move their sympathies
     And Christian charity!

I am like a gazer who should mark
     An inland company
Standing upfingered, with, 'Hark! Hark!
     The glorious distant sea!'
And feel, 'Alas, 'tis but yon dark
     And wind — swept pine to me!'

Yet I would bear my shortcomings
     With meet tranquillity,
But for the charge that blessed things
     I'd liefer not have be.
O, doth a bird deprived of wings
     Go earth — bound wilfully!

Enough. As yet disquiet clings
     About us. Rest shall we.

The Collect for the Day (2nd Sunday of Epiphany)

Let us pray:

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the
poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal
of our lives make known your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

The Darkling Thrush — Read by Mrs Brenda Parry

I leant upon a coppice gate
     When Frost was spectre — gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine — stems scored the sky
     Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
     Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
     The Century's corpse oudeant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
     The wind his death — lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
     The bleak twigs overhead
In a full — hearted evensong
     Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
     In blast — beruffled plume,
Had chose thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
     Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
     Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
     His happy good — night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
     And I was unaware.

Prayer for Thomas Hardy

O God our Father, who through the ages has caused poets and writers to perceive the world afresh, enthral and provoke us to thought, reflection and wonder; and to explore the richness and diversity of our common human nature; at this time we thank you for your servant Thomas Hardy, remembering him with joy, gratitude and affection, giving thanks for the perception, the insight and the keen observation of his literature, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Tess's Lament — Read by Mrs Susan Clarice

I would that folk forgot me quite,
               Forgot me quite!
I would that I could shrink from sight,
     And no more see the sun.
Would it were time to say farewell,
To claim my nook, to need my knell, i
Time for them all to stand and tell
     Of my day's work as done.

Ah! Dairy where I lived so long,
               I lived so long;
Where I would rise up staunch and strong,
     And lie down hopefully.
Twas there within the chimney — seat
He watched me to the clock's slow beat�
Loved me, and learnt to call me Sweet,
     And whispered words to me.

And now he's gone; and now he's gone;...
               And now he's gone!
The flowers we potted perhaps are thrown
     To rot upon the farm.
And where we had our supper — fire
May now grow nettle, dock, and briar,
And all the place be mould and mire
     So cozy once and warm.

And it was I who did it all,
               Who did it all;
Twas I who made the blow to fall
     On him who thought no guile.
Well, it is finished�past, and he
Has left me to my misery,
And I must take my Cross on me
     For wronging him awhile.

How gay we looked that day we wed,
               That day we wed!
"May joy be with ye!' they all said
     A — standing by the durn.
I wonder what they say o'us now,
And if they know my lot; and how
She feels who milks my favourite cow,
     And takes my place at churn!

It wears me out to think of it,
               To think of it;
I cannot bear my fate as writ,
     I'd have my life unbe;
Would turn my memory to a blot
Make every relic of me rot,
My doings be as they were not,
     And gone all trace of me!

The wreath laying

The wreath of Stinsford Yew will be laid

Barthelemon at Vauxhall — Read by Becky Fincham

He said: 'Awake my soul, and with the sun,'...
And paused upon the bridge, his eyes due east,
Where was emerging like a full — robed priest
The irradiate globe that vouched the dark as done.

It lit his face — the weary face of one
Who in the adjacent gardens charged his string,
Nightly, with many a tuneful tender Aing,
Till stars were weak, and dancing hours outrun.

And then were threads of matin music spun
In trial tones as he pursued his way:
This is a morn,' he murmured, 'well begun:

This strain to Ken will count when I am clay!'
And count it did; till, caught by echoing lyres,
It spread to galleried naves and mighty quires.

Prayer for writers

O God, who by your Spirit in our hearts, leads men and women to desire your perfection, to seek for truth and to rejoice in beauty; illuminate and inspire, we beseech you, all writers and poets, artists and craftsmen, that in whatsoever is true and pure and lovely, your name may be glorified. Amen

Surview — Read by Mrs Helen Lange

"Cogitavi vias meas"

A cry from the green — grained sticks of the fire
     Made me gaze where it seemed to be:
Twas my own voice talking therefrom to me
On how I had walked when my sun was higher —
     My heart in its arrogancy.

"You held not to 'whatsoever was true,"
     Said my own voice talking to me:
"Whatsoa'er was just you were slack to see;
Kept not things lovely and pure in view,"

     Said my own voice talking to me.

"You slighted her that endureth all,"
     Said my own voice talking to me;
"Vaunteth not, trusteth hopefully;
That suffereth long and is kind withal,'

     Said my own voice talking to me.

"You taught not that which you set about,"
     Said my own voice talking to me;
"That the greatest of things is Charity..."
— And the sticks burnt low, and the fire went out,
     And my voice ceased talking to me.

The Lord's Prayer and Blessing

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

God grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, the Queen and the Commonwealth and all people, peace and concord, and to us sinners, life everlasting. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you, today and for evermore. Amen

The Thomas Hardy Society
PO Box 1438

Tel. 01305 251501

The poems are taken from Gibson, James (ed) 2001 Thomas Hardy The Complete Poems Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

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Last modified 20 January 2011