I included this poem in my January 1, 2002 entry and I still haven’t found a better poem to start a new year.
Perhaps it’s a testament to the value of art that this poem written at the beginning of the 20th Century seems as valid today as it did the day it was written.
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 outleapt,
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.
I’m really not fond of traditions, but republishing this poem is one of the traditions I really don’t mind repeating, particularly since it’s the first poem that I ever voluntarily memorized, certainly one of the few I still have memorized.