But that move is delayed as
Hardy returns to poems dealing with the aftermath Emma’s death, including for the first time poems in which her voice is imagined. ‘The Haunter’ represents a ghost whom the poet cannot see, who must beg the reader to act as intermediary: ‘Tell him a faithful one is doing / All that love can do’. ‘All that love can do’ is a line from
Swinburne’s cynical ‘Félise’, which Hardy knew very well indeed. Swinburne writes:
‘Though love do all that love can do, / My heart will never ache or break / For your heart’s sake.’ The old Emma appears, then, deflecting the possibility of a harsher voice, insisting on love’s endurance. But hers is a voice which, as the next poem demonstrates, is uncertain in status, too close to the fluttering sounds of the wind.
‘The Voice’ contrasts a dubious sound (‘Can it be you that I hear?’) with a desired image of an earlier self (‘Let me view you, then’). The Emma it wishes to recover is described in a temporally convoluted phrase as ‘Saying that now you are not as you were / When you had changed from the one who was all to me’. But the voice of an earlier self is not easily imagined, and seems to dissolve…