The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

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 was reminded of Hardy’s poem by the hoar frost on the barren vines that lined the trail at Theler Wetlands today. Didn’t see any thrushes, but Song Sparrows greeted us and Red-Wing Blackbirds were already staking out their claim to nesting grounds.

3 thoughts on “The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same”

  1. Happy New Year! Whenever I read a Hardy poem I make a mental note to read more. That “almost Modern but not quite” tone is unmistakable.

    1. I’m not sure any of us really want to be “Modern.” Too damn depressing.

      I must admit to envying those who had complete “Faith” in the past.

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