The Darkling Thrush
by: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seem'd to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seem'd fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carollings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessèd Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Poems of the Past and Present. Thomas Hardy. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1902.
I love his pessimism, cynicism, and imagery.
My favorite, "The tangled bine-stems scored the sky/Like strings of broken lyres," immediately gives me a mental picture of sharp, harsh, and deadly shapes cutting across the landscape.
I also like the rhythm and sound of these powerful lines: "The ancient pulse of germ and birth/Was shrunken hard and dry."
Finally, the poem ends well, with the bird. Though small and gaunt, he flings his soul upon the growing gloom. Hardy sees no hope or reason for which the bird would sing, yet the bird had chosen to "fling his soul" in the face of his cruel surroundings.
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