The Clock Winder

by Thomas Hardy, 1917

It is dark as a cave,
Or a vault in the nave
When the iron door
Is closed, and the floor
Of the church re-laid
With trowel and spade.
But the parish-clerk
Cares not for the dark
As he winds in the tower
At a regular hour
The rheumatic clock
Whose dilatory knock
You can hear when praying
At the day's decaying,
Or at any lone while
From a pew in the aisle.
Up, up from the ground,
Around and around
In the turret stair
He clambers, to where
The wheelwork is,
With its tick, click, whizz,
Reposefully measuring
Each day to its end
That mortal men spend
In sorrowing and pleasuring.
Nightly thus does he climb
To the trackway of Time.
Him I followed one night
To this place without light,
And, ere I spoke, heard
Him say, word by word,
At the end of his winding,
The darkness unminding:
"So I wipe out one more,
My Dear, of the sore
Sad days that still be,
Like a drying Dead Sea,
Between you and me!"
Who she was no man knew:
He had long borne him blind
To all womankind,-
And was ever one who
Kept his past out of view.
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