Friday, May 09, 2014

The Darkling Thrush

Ah, the wonder of those iPhone apps that make a sort of etching of a rose photo in seconds! From my garden and touched by electronic magic. It is also always interesting to change an image to black and white. You see what you might not have seen before. In this case, the details of the leaves become more important.

We are still browsing in Understanding Poetry (see previous post)  this is one of the Hardy poems treated in that book on pages 345 and 346.

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 (1840 - 1928)

This might be one of the bleakest, most shocking end of a poem ever! I will never forget the shock I felt the first time I read it. Thomas Hardy is one of our very great English poets. We can also be reminded by the vocabulary of this poem of the wonderful, combinatory language available to English poets! Some of these words we do not regularly use, but because of their relationships to more common words, they are easy to comprehend in the context of the poem.

1 comment:

  1. This poem is probably the first poem I ever fell in love with and changed my life. It captured precisely how I felt as a high school senior in 1960. After reading Hardy's novels and poetry, I decided to be an English major instead of a Physics major when I entered college the next year.