Guest poem sent in by Neha Kumar
(Poem #977) The Darkling Thrush
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 seemed 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 Seemed 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 carolings 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 blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.
(31 December, 1900) Note: Originally titled "By the Century's Deathbed" We did this poem in high school, before the turn of the century, and I recall how we spent quite a bit of time discussing the date the poem was written. Apparently, at that time it was understood that the 19th century turned to the 20th on 1st January 1901 (rightly so). Anyway, here's some additional information for those interested: "... to commemorate the occasion, Hardy composed a poem originally titled "By the Century's Deathbed" which was published under that name in the Graphic on 19 December 1900. It later was renamed "The Darkling Thrush", and has been published under that title ever since. It is considered by many to be one of Hardy's finest poems. It is included in his 1901 collection titled Poems of the Past and the Present, and, though written several weeks earlier, is dated 31 December 1900. The year 1900 was not kind to Thomas Hardy. His marriage to Emma had become strained; she sat in her upper room writing letters and dabbling in poetry; he sat alone in his Max Gate study writing letters and serious poetry. Sickness in Emma's family had caused her to be absent from Max Gate for prolonged periods, upsetting the daily routine so important to Hardy. Two of Emma's cousins had been resident at Max Gate for several weeks, another upsetting anxiety in his domestic life. Thus, at year's end, as the 19th century drew its last breaths, Hardy composed his thoughts at that time. He portrays a wistfully gloomy, wintry world, "as fervourless as I". Yet, within that colorless scene, a thrush sings a joyful, hopeful carol. This is classic Hardy: always hoping for the best even within the context of a conviction of the worst." have a great new year! neha