The Young Churchwarden
by Thomas Hardy
When he lit the candles there,
And the light fell on his hand,
And it trembled as he scanned
Her and me, his vanquished air
Hinted that his dream was done,
And I saw he had begun
When Love's viol was unstrung,
Sore I wished the hand that shook
Had been mine that shared her book
While that evening hymn was sung,
His the victor's, as he lit
Candles where he had bidden us sit
With vanquished look.
Now her dust lies listless there,
His afar from tending hand,
What avails the victory scanned?
Does he smile from upper air:
"Ah, my friend, your dream is done;
And 'tis YOU who have begun
This poem came up for my Random Poem selection. I've read it over a few times and I'm darned if I can figure out who did what to whom. Anyone want to try to puzzle it out?
The narrator is still alive, the girl and the church warden dead, and he can't see what advantage he has. Just first thoughts, never read the poem before.
In the first stanza, the church warden sees that the couple is in love
In the second stanza the narrator wishes it was he rather than the warden who has died and is with his lover.
The warden speaks to the narrator and in essence says that God loved his beloved and has taken her to be with Him.
The church warden sees the couple is in love and knows he has no chance with her. Now, after her death , the narrator wishes that the church warden had won her instead of him. "Sore I wished the hand that shook had been mine..." ( love unstrung...maybe a bad marriage?) The narrator feels that the dead church warden is looking down on him and is gloating that he dodged a bullet by being the "loser" Her being described as "listless dust" does not sound too loving to me. I could be wrong. It's happened before.
Interesting. To add to the confusion, for some reason, my thesaurus shows churchwarden as a synonym for a tobacco pipe.
Somebody's dead, for sure.
To say more, I'd have to think about it for a long time.
But this much I can contribute:
Re: "When Love's viol was unstrung"
"Unstringed viol" is from Shakespeare (R2) and it means a person who is prevented from speaking -- not mute, but silenced.
In R2 it refers to someone from England who, living in a non-English-speaking country, will feel like "an unstringed viol" because he can't communicate.
Here I think it means someone who cannot "speak now" and therefore must "forever hold his peace." (And his tobacco pipe, of course.)
Somehow the 'Love's viol' line makes me think that they've fallen out of love. The narrator no longer wants the girl, and wishes that the churchwarden had won in the first place.
The third stanza 'His [grave] afar from tending hand' makes me wonder if the churchwarden had gone off somewhere. Perhaps the loss of his love drove him off to be a missionary.
A very long clay pipe, the sort favoured by churchwardens
From: [30.1911encyclopedia.org] />
"The duties of churchwardens comprise the provision of necessaries for divine service, so far as the church funds or voluntary subscriptions permit, the collecting the offertory of the congregation, the keeping of order during the divine service, and the giving of offenders into custody; the assignment of seats to parishioners; the guardianship of the movable goods of the church; the preservation and repair of the church and churchyard, the fabric and the fixtures; and the presentment of offences against ecclesiastical law."
Hugh, churchwarden=tobacco pipe is because there is a long thin stemed pipe which is called "the churchwarden".
I vote with Pam here. Seems 't me, a love triangle, the girl passed away and this is the solemn interaction of the two suitors, and because he had fallen out of love for her, his wishes that the other fellow had prevailed.