Norrie Woodhall – “I am ready”

Watching Countrywise an ITV series on the English countryside I heard a poem by Norrie Woodhall. It made me feel melancholy but ended with a smile. Norrie Woodhall, aged 105, is the last person to know Thomas Hardy. She played with the Hardy Players, a drama group playing out the novels by Thomas Hardy.

The poem starts with the lament of Norrie Woodhall familiar to perhaps every (very) old person: loneliness. The price of getting very old is to be alone. All the world you knew, all the people you met, are gone. The fact that she says that she doesn’t see them vivifies the image of people who were coming over for tea and have chat. The house remains silent.

The quote from Tess of the d’Urbervilles refers to end of the novel where Tess at Stonehenge says to Angel she is ready to die. Norrie is ready to die. She doesn’t belong to this world. Hers is long gone.

However, she ends with some wit, it could either mean “I won’t be able to understand” or “I refuse to understand”, in other words, it does not belong to her world.

I have transcribed Norrie Woodhall’s poem from the series so the line breaks are mine. I mainly used line breaks when Norrie Woodhall gave a little pause before she continued.

Norrie’s Lament

One hundred and five
and still I am here
wondering why
year after year
all those I loved
I do not see

Life for me now
is so very lonely
the new Hardy players
now so dear to me
and those (?) from the past
with Thomas Hardy
I have asked to show Tess
for all to see
Tess at Stonehenge
saying: “I am ready”

This new strange world
that others see
leave it alone
says poor little me
and now I must tell you
before I forget
I shall never understand the Internet

Norrie Woodhall

29-12-2011 update: Norrie Woodhall passed away on the 25th of October 2011. An interesting post by James Conway, including video can be found here.

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