Not as We Were

Tonight’s tea is an odd duck, a blend of white, green and jasmine tea with hibiscus for flavour. It’s called Buddha’s Blend, but that’s not the odd thing. It doesn’t taste the way it smells. That is the oddity. We opened the tin and observed to Miss Marschallin-cat that it was reminiscent of a blend we bought once from Wittards, Jubilee blend, a black tea flavoured with mango, mandarin and peach. That’s what Buddha’s Blend smelled of -suddenly we were back in the kitchen of the Grotto, number 68 North Street, spooning specialty Wittards tea into our teapot.

It doesn’t taste of those things though. Well, it wouldn’t, would it, with not a touch of mandarin, peach or even mango among the ingredients. That’s not to say it wasn’t lovely -it was – but it didn’t taste the way it smelled. A disconcerting culinary schism, by the way, if you’ve never experienced it. You might even say it was not as it was -for which reason, we’re giving you Hardy tonight.

Our love of Thomas Hardy’s poetry is well-documented. It might be the most beautiful in the English cannon to us. It conjures the England of coffee-table books as nothing else does, and is exhilaratingly playful in its word choice. Sometimes Hardy will even invent words wholecloth, like ‘norward’ here, or ‘illimited’ of The Darkling Thrush. At least, we’ve never seen anyone else make use of them.

More academically, Hardy, like Emily Dickenson, favours Common Metre -the metre of most hymn tunes. You can, if you’re so minded (this chorister is), set his poetry to everything from Helmsley to Aurelia, and quite a few others besides. It doesn’t work with this poem though. This one’s Dactylic Tetrameter, and if that sounds like a mouthful, suffice it to say you can waltz to this poem, more or less. Music and metre; preoccupations of ours. But here endeth the lesson. For a tea that’s not as it was, here’s a poem that breaks all its own -and Hardy’s -rules.

The Voice

Thomas Hardy

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 its listlessness
Travelling 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.
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