A Man (In Memory of H. of M.)
In Casterbridge there stood a noble pile,
Wrought with pilaster, bay, and balustrade
In tactful times when shrewd Eliza swayed. –
On burgher, squire, and clown
It smiled the long street down for near a mile
But evil days beset that domicile;
The stately beauties of its roof and wall
Passed into sordid hands. Condemned to fall
Were cornice, quoin, and cove,
And all that art had wove in antique style.
Among the hired dismantlers entered there
One till the moment of his task untold.
When charged therewith he gazed, and answered bold:
“Be needy I or no,
I will not help lay low a house so fair!
“Hunger is hard. But since the terms be such –
No wage, or labour stained with the disgrace
Of wrecking what our age cannot replace
To save its tasteless soul –
I’ll do without your dole. Life is not much!
Dismissed with sneers he backed his tools and went,
And wandered workless; for it seemed unwise
To close with one who dared to criticize
And carp on points of taste:
To work where they were placed rude men were meant.
Years whiled. He aged, sank, sickened, and was not:
And it was said, “A man intractable
And curst is gone.” None sighed to hear his knell,
None sought his churchyard-place;
His name, his rugged face, were soon forgot.
The stones of that fair hall lie far and wide,
And but a few recall its ancient mould;
Yet when I pass the spot I long to hold
As truth what fancy saith:
“His protest lives where deathless things abide!”