Friday poem: 'The Darkling Thrush' by Thomas Hardy

Read Thomas Hardy's beautiful poem, 'The Darkling Thrush', in full.

The rhythm of this poem is something to behold; the way that, even when all is 'spectre-grey', the words carry you purposefully forwards to the tiny darkling thrush and its 'blast-beruffled plume'. Hardy had originally called the poem 'By the Century's Deathbed, 1900', and throughout the poem we feel his anxiety and gloom. Something, though, moved him to change the title, and that one alteration allows us to trust all the more in one bird's hope.

by Thomas Hardy

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.

Poems of Thomas Hardy

by Thomas Hardy

Book cover for Poems of Thomas Hardy

Choosing the best verse from each volume, the Poems of Thomas Hardy is the perfect introduction to Hardy's lyrical, soul-searching and profoundly sincere poetry, covering subjects ranging from his grief at the death of his first wife to his experiences of war.