It’s been a while (six months, in fact!) since I posted my tribute to Edward Thomas’ Adlestrop, and the season has now rolled around from midsummer to midwinter.
I can’t resist the opportunity to publish what is possibly my favourite poem of all time: ‘The Darkling Thrush’ by Thomas Hardy. It paints a vivid picture of a landscape in the icy grip of winter; death and desolation reign, but the gloom is pierced by an unexpected ray of hope. This is something that speaks to all of us as we struggle bleary-eyed on cold dark mornings, and then, a few meagre hours later, watch helplessly as the sun collapses below the western horizon.
What else can I say? Nothing. When it comes to poetry, Hardy was (and is) a genius.
THE DARKLING THRUSH
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
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, 31st December 1899