Hardy's first wife, Emma, died in 1912. It had been in many ways a difficult marriage, but in the months following her death (and for the rest of his life, even after his second marriage) Hardy was invaded by feelings of remorse, and by memories or earlier and happier days. In 1912 and 1913 he wrote a group of 20 or so poems which again and again go back and poignantly retrieve those memories. Among them is 'The Voice'.
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.
Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, shared here with kind permission of the reader.