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Featured Poem: At Day-Close in November by Thomas Hardy

Written by Martin Gallagher, 26th November 2018

The Reader’s Learning and Quality Leader, Katie Clark, shares her thoughts on this week’s Featured Poem, At Day-Close in November by Thomas Hardy.

There always seems to be a big shift between October, still mild, full of colour, alive with nature and the new novelty of burnt orange and reds creeping into the leaves, and November, where colour gives way to dampness, frost and fog. This is a great poem to take some time with as we head in to that difficult, darker time of year, when the 'day close' still takes us by surprise, creeping ever closer to midday. As it seems that the hours in the day shrink, how important to take a step back to reflect on the passing of time through the years, as well as the days.

As the daylight fades, the 'Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time/Float past like specks in the eye' and trigger the memory of planting these same trees 'in my June time'. I love how the seasons of the year translate to seasons of life here. The full bloom of June leaves mirroring the energy of this younger life. As Hardy observes 'the children who ramble through here' full of the present, it makes me think about how looking back across the expanse of years and marking the changes also enables you to imagine a time when the landscape will look different again.

'A time when no tall tress grew here,
A time when none will be seen.'

I love this forward and back movement, it feels at once melancholy and hopeful. Not content to look backwards only, but wanting to take in the full panoramic view of ongoing change, giving a nod to new life to come; Spring around the corner. It leaves me wondering about that time to come, though, 'when none will be seen.' Is there sadness in that? It feels like a loss, a change that leaves you with less. Or is that just the darkness of November creeping in and obscuring the trees, for a time?

At Day-Close in November

The ten hours' light is abating,
And a late bird wings across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.

Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.

And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
That none will in time be seen.

by Thomas Hardy

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