Hardy was an old man of 72 when he wrote this poem recalling the early days of his first marriage, which was a happy time for him and his wife, Emma. Her death provided him with material of the deepest personal significance and the "Poems of 1912-13", from which this work came, are his most personal utterance and most typical poems - often touching, as they do, on the inexorability of time and the meaning and inevitability of suffering. His first wife changed as she grew older, however, believing that she had married beneath her, and she and her husband did not speak to each other for a long period of time. Here, hardy describes his feelings of grief at her death, and wishes they would relieve the past and be re-united. Finally, he reveals his feelings of despair and hopelessness at what life has become for him.
The first stanza begins by expressing his grief at the loss of his wife ('much missed") and his sense that she is calling out to him.
The repetition of "call to me" suggests the insistent, unceasing and unwearying effort she is making to reach him - an effort which must, in reality be an indication of the strength of his longing for her rather than of her yearning for him. Her voice is a projection of his mind, the result of a mixture of his own memory, imagination and desire, but his sense that she is calling him is so powerfully felt that he almost seems to hear her speaking, at first.
He imagines his dead wife saying that she was no longer the person she had become later in life but had returned to being the person she had been in the early days of their marriage, when they were happy...