Text of the Poem

 I went by the Druid stone
 That broods in the garden white and lone,
And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows
 That at some moments fall thereon
 From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,
 And they shaped in my imagining
To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders
 Threw there when she was gardening.

 I thought her behind my back,
 Yea, her I long had learned to lack,
And I said: "I am sure you are standing behind me,
 Though how do you get into this old track?"
 And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf
 As a sad response; and to keep down grief
I would not turn my head to discover
 That there was nothing in my belief.

 Yet I wanted to look and see
 That nobody stood at the back of me;
But I thought once more: "Nay, I'll not unvision
 A shape which, somehow, there may be."
 So I went on softly from the glade,
 And left her behind me throwing her shade,
As she were indeed an apparition -
 My head unturned lest my dream should fade.


  1. The rhyme scheme in the third and final stanza—AABACCBC—is consistent throughout the poem, with the exception of line 7 in the second stanza which is unrhymed. The end rhymes in the poem are mostly perfect rhymes, such as “see”/“me”/“be” and “glade,”/“shade”/“fade” in this stanza. Sometimes the end rhymes are examples of approximate rhyme or off rhyme, such as “unvision” and “apparition” in this stanza and “shadows”/“shoulders” in the first stanza.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. An apparition is a ghostly figure or something that appears supernaturally.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Hardy coins the word “unvision” to mean literally “unsee.” In the poem’s context, it also has a figurative meaning: to destroy the vision of Emma he imagined or experienced in the garden.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. By refusing to look behind him, Hardy keeps alive the possibility that Emma is with him and spares himself the grief of discovering that she is not there.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. Until this point in the poem, Hardy’s emotional state has only been implied. Here he expresses it as one of sadness and grief, suggesting his feelings of despair regarding Emma’s death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Hardy now actively engages in his imaginary reunion with Emma, thinking she is standing behind him and speaking to her directly as he tries to understand how she could now appear in “this old track,” a reference to the path through the garden.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Even as Hardy is drawn deeper into imagining Emma’s presence, he acknowledges her having died. The alliteration of the “L” sound in “long,” “learned,” and “lack” unites the three words, suggesting that he has lived without her for some time and that living without her had been difficult, something he had to learn how to do.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. The key word in this passage is “imagining.” From his memories of watching Emma work in the garden, Hardy see her shadow in the shadows on the stone cast by the nearby tree. His imagining that he sees Emma’s shadow provides further insight into his emotional state; he sees what he wants to see in the shadows.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. In the context of this line, “hard by” means near or nearby.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. With this line the focus of the poem changes from the stone to the shadows on the stone; the focus shifts simultaneously with the shadows shifting on it. The alliteration of the “S” sound emphasizes the dynamic in the line and in the poem. The repetition of the alliteration in the following lines (“some,” “swing,” “shaped,” “shade,” “shoulders”) unifies the stanza, leading to the final and most important alliterative word: “she.” “She” refers to Emma, the subject of Hardy’s meditation.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. To brood means to dwell on a subject while in an anxious or gloomy state of mind. With the word “broods,” Hardy personifies the stone, ascribing to it his own depressed emotional state.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. The poem begins with the description of an ancient stone in the garden at Max Gate. After moving into the house, Hardy discovered the large block of stone buried in the garden and arranged for it to be excavated, revealing charred human bones and ashes. Historical evidence to the contrary, Hardy chose to believe that the stone was the site of human sacrifices performed by Druids, priests of the Celtic tribes in Britain at the time of the Roman conquest.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor