Hardy’s “Darkling Thrush”

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.


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.

December 1900

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.

7 thoughts on “Hardy’s “Darkling Thrush””

  1. Thank you for quoting this beautiful poem, so pertinent to the day as you say, and for saying that you’ve memorized it Saying what poems one has memorized says so much about one that the information feels like a gift. I wish you a great 2010 with lots of great photographs and birds, photographic and poetic.

  2. Happy New Year, Loren! “The Darkling Thrush” is just right for the first day of 2010. Thanks so much. Blessed Hope.

    Happy Birthday, too! (I see from your Facebook widget here that you’ve had a birthday)

  3. Thank you so much for that Loren – I have not seen the poem before. I am glad you repeat the tradition. The song of a thrush is hard to beat – there is one on my bird table as I write.
    Maybe 2010 be a good year for you.
    Best wishes.

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