Nobody Comes


Nobody Comes

Tree-leaves labour up and down, 
And through them the fainting light Succumbs to the crawl of night.
Outside in the road the telegraph wire
To the town from the darkening land

Intones to travelers like a spectral lyre
Swept by a spectral hand.

A car comes up, with lamps full-glare, 
That flash upon a tree:
It has nothing to do with me,
And whangs along in a world of its own, Leaving a blacker air; 

And mute by the gate I stand again alone,
And nobody pulls up there.

9th October, 1924

Thomas Hardy


Hardy's sonnet Nobody Comes forms the basis of the handmade digital photo-book of the same name undertaken in the context of the centenary commemorations of the First World War. 

Hardy's sonnet has 14 lines arranged in opposing stanzas. The photobook too - made in 2016) -  contains 14 images arranged as diptychs. 

The sonnet is based upon a contrast; a vision, and vision denied. In this poem, written in 1924, Hardy, who had written propaganda poems for the government reflects on the meaninglessness of the artist in this post war world.

Poetic inspiration, the lyre, has proved to be a liar: the pun is bitter. The natural world (the trees) has increasingly been invaded by man as a consequence of industrialisation (the car) with subsequent pollution (the darker air). Society is also more disjointed and mobile (the road) and now communicates by the more impersonal means of an increasingly technological era (the telegraph wire).

Many of the images depict cemeteries, or parts of cemeteries on the Ypres Salient. Before deciding to become a poet, Hardy trained as an architect under Arthur Blomfield, whose nephew Reginald Blomfield, became one of the three leading architects of the CWGC, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These monuments, austere yet also dreamy, are an attempt at persuading that the war was not only worthwhile but worth preserving even though today, we know what the issues underlying the First World War were never resolved and led to only more conflict. The dream of an improved world led nowhere. There was vision only for there to be vision denied. 

Belgium, the location for two world wars, is fertile and agricultural yet a location desirable for death and destruction. The recent terror attacks highlight that no country has a recent history that better illustrates how the problems of the twentieth century remain unresolved, continuing into the twenty-first century.

Amidst commemoration and terror, Belgium is a place where vision was lost, remains lost, and perhaps there is no better time or place to reconsider the resolved and unresolved issues of European culture and global problems.  The diptychs speak of a time, but also a century, and they speak of the space perceptible, but also the imperceptible. 

Although originally handmade a digital version of Nobody Comes is viewable below.