“The Darkling Thrush” 2013

“The Darkling Thrush” 2013


It’s my New Year’s Eve custom to read and ruminate over Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush,” and I did so just a few minutes ago.  Images of “spectre-grey” and “winter’s dregs” sprang to life, because those lines remind me of what I saw on my walk around the farm.

It was warmer today than it has been the past two years, and winter didn’t seem to sit so heavily on the landscape or me.  No ice, no frost, and no paralyzing cold.  Instead I met warm, slick, and muddy earth, and the trees, buildings, and even the sky were mousy. As Hardy eloquently put it: the landscape seemed “fervourless as I.”

And, in the mildness of the day I discovered apathy in my heart- as though my world wasn’t chilling and bitter enough to make me search for some hope.

I didn’t even listen for the darkling thrush.


It’s late now and the indifferent day has passed; I feel a faint stirring, and finally I imagine the thrush’s “Happy good night-air” and sense “some blessed hope, whereof he knew, [but] I was unaware.”

A question buds and more follow – what will 2014 bring for you and me?  What will we offer?  Will we finally out grow making the same mistakes?

What song, what songs – will we sing?

Author’s Note:  Follows is Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush” in full in case you are interested.

The Darkling Thrush

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.