Her Dilemma

The two were silent in a sunless church,
  Whose mildewed walls, uneven paving-stones,
And wasted carvings passed antique research;
  And nothing broke the clock’s dull monotones.

Leaning against a wormy poppy-head,
  So wan and worn that he could scarcely stand,
—For he was soon to die,—he softly said,
  “Tell me you love me!”—holding hard her hand.

She would have given a world to breathe “yes” truly,
  So much his life seemed hanging on her mind,
And hence she lied, her heart persuaded throughly,
  ’Twas worth her soul to be a moment kind.

But the sad need thereof, his nearing death,
  So mocked humanity that she shamed to prize
A world conditioned thus, or care for breath
  Where Nature such dilemmas could devise.

– Thomas Hardy, 1866

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