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The Darkling Thrush -- Thomas Hardy

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.
-- Thomas Hardy
      (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!

15 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Kattymaus1 said...

Hey over there,
I'm an English student from Germany and at the end of the term I have to
write an exam about Thomas Hardys "The darkling thrush". So, if you have any
information for me, please send it!!! That would be very nice!!
Thanks, Kathrin

abdasalam ehnish said...


asma khanom said...

this poem sounds sooooo depressing but thats all i can gather from it i would really appreciate a bit info on it like whats he really going on about a line by line explanation would be nice if i could get it lol

asma khanom said...

hi jus wondering if u ever did get the information on the poem the darkling thrush as i am also a student looking for that information

jfrost said...

can i ask wt the hell this poem is about for my english essay

Stanley Allen said...

"Frost was spectre-gray"

Robert Frost, with a roguish twinkle, recognized his own name in
Hardy's poem and made sly reference to it in one of his own:
"Come In", which also gloomily speaks of thrush music echoing
in the dark.

Was Frost's poem a rejoinder/repudiation of Hardy's? Yes
and no. Without a "blessed Hope", Frost nonetheless insisted
on enjoying what all there was, and so refused to "come in to the
dark and lament".


Geoff Lander said...

May God help you. So many subtle ideas here. So English. So Hardy. So melancholy. Pre-mass entertainment how much was there to do on a grey afternoon? A sprectre grey afternoon, spectre being a ghost, an allusion to death? How much more important was birdsong then? At a time for reflection, at the end of the century was it a signal of hope? The small,old thrush with death approaching, a thrush in the winter wind, no warm fire for him, but still a cheering song.

Anonymous said...

thanks alot

great information !!!

thanks again

Toyota Triple Amazing Riau said...

very give me a hope to read all your poem

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