You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb, -
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?
Who among us hasn't felt the sting of rejection without a word of forewarning? Whether romantic, platonic, or business, this kind of rejection is painful and makes one feel worthless, as if your own basic existence isn't worth someone else's attention. The poem begins without ambiguity: "You did not come." Hardy is unflinching in laying on not just the accusation, but goes on to talk about what that broken appointment does to one's hopes, particularly when the arena is love. He grieves not just for the loss of the woman's presence, but that she lacks the "high compassion" to even reject someone else in person.
The only conclusion he can draw? "You love not me." The part that gets me most are the last four lines of the second stanza. He asks if it just wasn't worth her time, "worth a little hour more" to tell him to his face that she loves him not. "To soothe a time-torn man" even though you do not love him would be a mark of "that high compassion which can overbear reluctance" that is mentioned in the first stanza, and which this woman evidently lacked.
The modern equivalent of this poem is breaking up with one's partner by text message. It dehumanizes them and sends the fundamental message of "You are not worth my time." If only compassion always did overbear our reluctance, maybe we'd all be better to one another. Many of us have probably been on both sides of this coin. Whether through malice, ignorance, forgetfulness, or whatever else, who hasn't broken an appointment? It hurts deeply, as this poem shows. Let's all strive together to be compassionate, even when we do not love one another.