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