His Immortality

  I saw a dead man's finer part
  Shining within each faithful heart
Of those bereft. Then said I: "This must be
    His immortality."

  I looked there as the seasons wore,
And still his soul continuously bore
A life in theirs. But less its shine excelled
     Than when I first beheld.

  His fellow-yearsmen passed, and then
In later hearts I looked for him again;
And found him — shrunk, alas! into a thin
    And spectral mannikin.

  Lastly I ask — now old and chill —
If aught of him remain unperished still;
And find, in me alone, a feeble spark,
    Dying amid the dark.

Thomas Hardy

Written February 1899; first published in Poems of the Past and Present, 1901.

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