'Twas foolish perhaps! to forsake the ways
Of the flaring town for a farmer's life.
She agreed. And we fixed it. Now she says:
'It's sweet of you, dear, to prepare me a nest,
But a swift, short, gay life suits me best.
What I really am you have never gleaned;
I had eaten the apple ere you were weaned.'"—Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), from the sonnet “At the Altar-Rail,” from Satires of Circumstance (1914)
With June the most popular month for weddings, the mind thinks not only of the many happy unions begun but of the occasional ones never started, perhaps best epitomized by the bitterly sad, ancient spinster Miss Havisham of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
That characterization was so indelible that, to this day, whenever I think of one half of a couple left high and dry on what should be the happiest day of their lives, it’s always a female I think of. But the great British poet-novelist Thomas Hardy has shown, even in the Victorian and early modern eras when women were at a decided economic and legal disadvantage, men could still end up losers in the game of love.
Ah, the road to love can be hard indeed!