This is a Hardy poem for barren February in England. Hardy habitually linked the cold with thorns. It is about some flowers from Italy, withering in England. I like the line "Old sunny haunts of Classic thought" as a description of Italy. When we turn south into Italy, descending from the Alps, through Bregaglia, just above Chiavenna, and see that more intense, life-giving sun, I recall that the Alps are a boundary of the European techtonic plate and that Italy sits on the African plate: the Alps are their collision. I am nearing "the roots of thought" too: the fount of civilisation. So did Thomas Hardy, clearly.
Sunned in the South, and here to-day;
If all organic things
Be sentient, Flowers, as some men say,
What are your ponderings?
How can you stay, nor vanish quite
From this bleak spot of thorn,
And birch, and fir, and frozen white
Expanse of the forlorn?
Frail luckless exiles hither brought!
Your dust will not regain
Old sunny haunts of Classic thought
When you shall waste and wane;
But mix with alien earth, be lit
With frigid Boreal flame,
And not a sign remain in it
To tell men whence you came.