A Poem by Thomas Hardy

A Ballad of the Eighteen-Thirties

I

” O what’s the gain, my worthy Sir,
In stopping the banns to-day!
Your son declares he’ll marry her
If a thousand folk say Nay.”

” I’ll do’t; I’ll do’t; whether or no!
And, if I drop down dead,
To church this morning I will go,
And say they shall not wed!”

That day the parson clear outspoke
The maid’s name and the man’s:
His father, mid the assembled folk,
Said, ” I forbid the banns!”

Then, white in face lips pale and cold,
He turned him to sit down,
When he fell forward; and behold,
They found his life had flown.

II

‘Twas night-time, towards the middle part,
When low her husband said,
” I would from the bottom of my heart
That father was not dead!”

She turned from one to the other side,
And a sad woman was she
As he went on: ” He’d not have died
Had it not been for me!”

She brought him soon an idiot child,
And then she brought another:
His face waned wan, his manner wild
With hatred of their mother.

” Hearken to me, my son. No: no:
There’s madness in her blood!”
Those were his father’s words; and lo,
Now, now he understood.

What noise is that? One noise, and two
Resound from a near gun.
Two corpses found; and neighbours knew
By whom the deed was done.

[Analysis of The Forbidden Banns]

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