The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy: Summary

Birdsong in poetry has never gone out of fashion, but today’s poets content themselves with more descriptive representations. The original piece was for 12-part choir; this 4-part version is appropriate for choirs of any level. Hardy's thrush of course belongs to the Romantic tradition, in which birds seem to express emotion in "songs" that have human significance. Thrushes are fairly common songbirds and usually have a brownish upper plumage and a spotted breast. Beckett's well-known description of his writings as 'the expression that there is nothing to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express', poses the question that 'The Darkling Thrush' has tried to answer. Hardy’s bird poem begins this way.

On a deeper level, we deal with despair and death of the century. Another metaphor that I find important is in the line “His crypt the cloudy canopy”. God complains about humanity almost in the same way as your grandmother sometimes goes on about ‘the youth of today’!

Discuss this as a class. This means that in each stanza, lines one, three, five, and seven carry four stressed syllables (i LEANT uPON a COPpice GATE), and lines two, four, six, and eight carry three stressed syllables (when FROST was SPECter-GRAY). At other times, forces of nature represent permanence, in contrast to human feelings and prosperity. I shall include it in the comments, as it is quite long.

However, a spiritual crisis had caused him to both give up his Christian faith and abandon all desire to serve in the church. Still, he himself characterized his poems as “questionings” and “explorations of reality. A student of the English language, Hardy also echoed unusual words used by other poets. Hardy offers a glimmer of hope, expressed in the joyous song of the bird.

This language seems too specifically referential and clear-cut not to have been intentional, and yet we know Hardy was not a believing Christian. What is the significance of the contiguity? Even though he had been writing poetry since the 1850s, he had published little of it, preferring instead the money that novel-writing brought him. We do not know why the thrush sings or what there is to be hopeful for, only that the narrator is entranced by it. The 'Nightingale' Grown Old," in Victorian Poetry, Vol. "

Hardy entered the new school at Lower Bockhampton in 1848 already knowing how to read.


He had always enjoyed watching and collecting butterflies, and was an excellent field entomologist. Open search, and let's be real:. (41-45, NA, 904). The rest is metaphor and simile. Mencken whether he believed in infant baptism, he answered, “Believe in it — I’ve seen it done! Such poems based on abstract ideas are called abstractions. On the whole, critics have been kind to "The Darkling Thrush," praising both its subject matter and its form.

The comparison of shrub stems to the strings of a broken lyre harkens back to the Greco- Roman tradition, in which lyres were popular musical instruments. There are further "liquid siftings" in the many l' and 'r' sounds that ensue. The charges of pessimism against Hardy are so great that Norman Page, in his encyclopedia Oxford Reader's Companion to Hardy, includes an entry on "pessimism. "The darkness is a positive force that integrates him momentarily with the "shadows numberless" of the nightingale and nature.

‘Yet portion of that unknown plain/Will Hodge forever be’.

Study Notes

– ‘What does this vaingloriousness down here? Such questions can only be answered through a more in-depth or detailed analysis of the work. Some of his images are symbolic of ruin or decay. He sees the unexpected twists and surprises that life throws at people. For instance, he often seems preoccupied with supernatural elements. As the turn of a millennial century approaches, many works of art in various media will respond to that rotation of the calendar. Hardy thus leaves his reader with a challenge:

He alters or reworks moments of belonging or intimacy from the past in a romantic way, implying they were sweetly harmonious or more innocent than the present. The first stanza demonstrates this rhyme scheme. The first stanza had placed the poet in the landscape, contrasting him to 'all mankind' indoors and comparing the bine-stems to 'strings of broken lyres'; the second stanza compared the landscape to the Century, and assimilated both to the poet—'as I'. These notes are meant to assist those studying English (Higher Level) for the Leaving Certificate but obviously they can be used by all lovers of poetry – even those who studied Hardy’s poetry in Soundings long ago! His works continue to be read, enjoyed, and studied even today. Hardy is keenly aware that civilisations and political arrangements last a limited time, pass and are replaced.

"The Darkling Thrush" is a lyric poem with four eight-line stanzas.

For SATB choir

Hardy had a vision of a post religious society. A friend remarked that he was a writer who was ‘sorry for Nature, who feels the earth and the roots, as if he has sap in his veins rather than blood, and could get closer than any other man to the things of the earth’. The precisely drab phrase “spectre-gray” is complemented by the verb “haunted” in line 7, and carried over into the explicit—and grotesque—imagery of death that pervades the entire second stanza:

It is one of Hardy's most written-about poems. Search the poems and you will find many examples of these traits. Both isolated in their separate living quarters and lacking a locus of community, society lies fragmented. We receive no impression, however, that the poet expects to be welcomed into heaven (or hell, for that matter) once he leaves this world behind. Auden and that would help to shape modernist attitudes towards history and humanity.

More often than not, we do not have a choice but to accept it. He was born in 1840 and so inherited the mantle of the Romantics but his outlook on nature is often far from ‘romantic’. He left school at 15 and was apprenticed as an ecclesiastical artist in St Albans, working in a wide variety of media, including stained and engraved glass, wood carving, bronze sculpture, gold leaf, watercolours and oils. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.

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Keats's bird sings first a "high requiem" and then a "plaintive anthem" which grieves the passing of the one moment of integration, but which also celebrates the hope for rebirth. With the cold weather still upon us, we thought it would be the perfect selection to spend some time contemplating! There is very little evidence of an afterlife in his work and this gives it a very pessimistic, even atheistic, outlook. Huffpost is now a part of verizon media, her collections have been featured at famous museums like the Biobliotheque Nationale de France, the J. – ‘The world is as it used to be /All nations striving strong to make/ red war yet redder. 7 FM, in Moncton at 106. And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.

” The poem was written and published on the very last days of the 19th century, and thus not only records but also represents what Jaspers called a “boundary situation”. This “conquered nonknowledge”is his reply to unreasoned hope. In that respect, it is an elegy — a mournful poem that deals with death — here, the death of the century.


Innocents, like the boy Drummer Hodge, are sacrificed meaninglessly. Hardy country for sure. The analysis points out that the metrical form of the poem is responsible for certain religious inference. A large hardback in landscape format, it gives equal prominence to paintings of the English countryside by Gordon Beningfield alongside pastoral poems by Thomas Hardy. So, back to “The Darkling Thrush,” I want to go out on a limb (slightly) in my reading of the final stanza.

That is the first and manifest level of irony. This play of light and shade called chiaroscuro effect is treated equally in the poem. Hardy's scene is even more deathly still: A Tale (1880), A Laodicean (1881), Two on a Tower: It seemed to me especially appealing that a poem written on the last day of the 19th century should still read so powerfully and seem so apt at the beginning of the 21st. Hardy derived a love of music from his father and a devotion to literature from his mother.

When the speaker in this poem says, “tangled bine-stems”, and “the land’s sharp features”, I imagine a rough, unmanicured, wild-looking landscape.

The fact that we hear both these voices in this poem, that words from two such distinct linguistic registers are woven together in his verse, is a testament to Hardy’s integrity and honesty as an artist. Compose a short essay comparing and contrasting Hardy's poem with Keats's "Ode to a Night-engale" and Emily Dickinson's "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers. "In "The Darkling Thrush," the focus is on the vacuity of nature and the speaker's courage to exact "a full look at the Worst" and reject such a participation. His low opinion of mankind is very evident in ‘Channel Firing’, where man’s history is depicted as one endless attempt to make ‘Red war yet redder’. ” So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound “ I believe that by maintaining such a droning, repetitive meter and rhyme scheme, that the effect becomes like chanting or meditating. It will be hard for a poet to surpass the poise and penetration of Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush,” which is dated as being composed on the last evening of the 19th century.

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When the frost was ghostly gray and the depressing winter landscape made the setting sun seem lonely and abandoned, the speaker leaned on a gate before a thicket of small trees. How to get rid of a yeast infection, women who have recurring yeast infections should be evaluated for other causes (such as diabetes, hormone therapy, or treatment-resistant strains of yeast) so that the cause can be treated or reversed. In his loneliness, the poet has personified Winter and Frost. If ladies experience uterine sensations of a similar kind, discuss among yourselves. In this compilation, Hardy also chooses to include “The Darkling Thrush. Musical instruments with strings. It's been beaten badly by the weather, and it seems as old and death-bound as the year itself.

Write another stanza for the poem that takes place a year later. He also uses personification. Thicket of small trees. There is a wealth of imagery in this poem, but perhaps the most significant is the possible identification with its author. Poems of the Past and Present. Why did Hardy choose this particular subject to mark such an auspicious turning point? He has a vision that death, decay and mistakes are inevitable in human life.


As I looked particularly closely at the poem in preparation for the class—and then, later, during the class in the very act of talking about it—I was struck anew by the astonishing care with which it was put together, and how even the smallest details fell beautifully into place, so as to form a seamless whole that is both moving in itself as a poem and conveniently representative of Hardy’s subject-matter, formal practices, voice, and vision. That doesn't stop it from belting its heart out, though. He learned French, German, and Latin, sometimes self-taught. He was especially deft at creating compound words such as the latter two. We quickly pick up the steady rhythm and rhyme scheme, and even in the first three lines, we become aware of the sibilance, creating a whispery atmosphere; a breath of wind among the stiff, brittle branches. In the following essay excerpt, Lock compares the singing of the thrush in "The Darkling Thrush" with Hardy's role as poet and his view of poetry. Why be joyful when the world is so crummy? Some were outright colonies; others held "dominion" status.

Hardy qualifies this assertion by frankly confessing his own "fervourless" condition; but the poem's tone up to this point is seamless.

Gone is the agrarian culture—attuned with the “ancient pulse of germ and birth”—that defined life before the Industrial Revolution. Both these poems are “triolets”, a stanza poem of eight lines, with a rhyme scheme: It was originally published in 1985. We all know how Hardy makes use of landscape to convey emotion—”Neutral Tones” leaps to mind—but note how the bleak, cold, barren winter scene is immediately conveyed by the strength of the capitalized “Frost” and “Winter’s,” which is in turn further strengthened by those “dregs” which make “desolate” the diminishing light of the fading sun (personified as well as “the eye of day”). In his description of the thrush W. By fusing art and nature in this image, Hardy suggests the singular characteristic of the Romantic era:


Grammar is the ordering of words, and its traditional, Aristotelian validity derived from the faith that the world is analogously ordered. The speaker is left alone outside with death all around him. (5-6, NA, 1871). Furthermore, as a result of modern societal fragmentation, Hardy’s narrator’s lacks valid human connections. The last stanza, like the first two, contains a first person pronoun and an extensive landscape. ‘Thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad/ In such an ecstasy’[6]. The small and aged bird’s joy song is contrasted with the speaker’s lack of joy and hope in the poem. We enjoy the variety, whilst knowing that birdsong is a expression of territorial possession.

Moments of Vision," Geoffrey Harvey calls "The Darkling Thrush" a poem of the highest imaginative order," noting that the speaker mourns God's death as much as the death of nature. But just as we cannot understand birdsong, we cannot understand the language of God, and some consider the cosmos and all it contains to be “the language of God. This article appears as “Some Blessed Hope” in the December 31, 2020, print edition of National Review. Skarda and Nora Crow Jaffe (New York: )Hardy regards human being as always ready to participate in the game of warfare, without ever learning a lesson from past wars. The phrases like winter’s dregs, household fires, frost and the shoots like the strings of broken lyres indicate the season as winter. Equally he knows that childhood and youth make way for a different future.

Here the dusk doesn’t just refer to the dimming of light.

In his Hardy of Wessex of 1940, Carl J. Open search, they will examine the vulva (external genitalia) and may perform a speculum exam to examine the inside walls of the vagina. Hardy focuses a lot on death, sometimes to a. Then people going home and seeking their household fires add to the image of the gloomy end of the day.

Hynes, Samuel, The Patterns of Hardy's Poetry, University of North Carolina Press, 1961.

  • But as Heaney would be later, here Hardy is prepared to be ‘exposed to every wind that blows’[2], and even if he expects the finality of a bleak north wind, he does not ignore this faint air from Paradise.
  • As he was meditating on the features of the century, there comes a thrush with evensong.
  • To personify something is to give human qualities to inanimate things.
  • Occasionally the reversal in a poem is a happy one, though this is not usually the case.
  • But then the speaker announces that there seemed little in the environment to herald "carolings/Of such ecstatic sound."
  • 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.
  • But even as Hardy the poet allows the thrush to help him apprehend the possibility of some blessed hope, Hardy the philosopher tries to have the last word, and to close the poem with the claim to be ‘unaware’ of that hope.

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‘The Darkling Thrush’ is about one person’s reaction to this change. It is doubtful whether a modern poet would depict the songbird’s fortitude—or its resentment of the, snug in their warm house: The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fervourless as I. ” How puzzling it is to the speaker that an animal nearby finds reason to be happy in this dark time and place, while all they can do is mope and dwell on sadness and death. These ideas were beginning to disappear during his mature years as a poet. This poem was written on the 31st of December 1900, and the dying of that winter’s day, Hardy also took to be the century’s death; the end of the 19th century, with all its hopes of unimpeded progress and universal peace, cheated and defeated. Not every poem seems to tell a story, and yet this is one that does, from beginning to end.

Some of his poems are regarded as deliberately obscure. Mitchell covers topics such as education, health and medicine, technology, and the significance of the ever-expanding British Empire. After the publication of his final novel,in 1896, Thomas Hardy lost heart and resolved to write no more novels. I could think.

To him, they are essential and universal traits. While not aged — he was 59 when he wrote it — he was getting on. In rendering this scene, Hardy brings his highest faculties as a poet, crafting language of exceptional beauty. I am particularly drawn to the line about ‘the ancient pulse of germ and birth’. The century is dying (‘crypt’, ‘death-lament’) because it is at its end, but also because something has died as a result of the events of that century: As far as Hardy is concerned, it is not only the century that draws to a close, but also his literary career. Herbert in the 1860scriticised religious theories for the assumption that ultimate reality can be known.


Keats deliberately echoed Milton when he came to write the ‘Ode to a Nightingale’; but this time he applied the adverb ‘darkling’ not to the quality of the birds’ singing, as Milton had done, but to the quality of his listening: Here is an instance where the two overlapped: Hardy’s views on God and religion were constantly changing. The poet calls the thrush’s melody a ‘full-hearted evensong’ — prayers sung at the end of the day, in the evening. The poet 'could think' that 'Hope' 'trembled through' the thrush's song. Seemed fervorless as I.

Another interesting aspect of this poem is it’s inclusion of a bird as a main character. Earlier in the same book, Tomalin memorably describes Hardy as a child, waiting each evening for the setting sun to light up the red-painted staircase in the family house, at which point he would recite an "evening hymn" by Sir Isaac Watts, beginning "And now another day is gone,/ I'll sing my maker's praise". Poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was born in the third year of Queen Victoria's reign on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England, to Thomas Hardy, a stonemason, and Jemima (Hand) Hardy. In the grey scenery of the first two stanzas, the narrator, barely visible, sees only the stasis of deepest winter. Suddenly, the speaker hears the "full-hearted" voice of a bird rising above the "bleak twigs. "Moments of Vision," in Critical Essays on Thomas Hardy's Poetry, edited by Harold Orel, G. "Here is ‘The Darkling Thrush’, followed by a close analysis of its features.

  • Both were country lads and both contributed greatly in giving us an idea of what life was like in the late nineteenth century.
  • There are seventy-four poems here by Thomas Hardy, and all are about nature, the past, memories, the seasons, and country life.
  • There is no question of Hardy's familiarity with Whitman—he is quoted in Desperate Remedies and in Tess—and little doubt of his presence in 'The Darkling Thrush'.
  • The speaker refers to the century as an entity that is dead and now a corpse, which is what they mean by “his” in this line.
  • Or, is the actual thrush “in the dark” in the sense that it remains ignorant to the surrounding bleak conditions?
  • It presents us with a universe that has no God and no afterlife, nothing beyond our tiny human lives.
  • The bird, according to J.


At the very moment when the poet has effected a partial detachment—through self-consciousness—from metonymic identity with the thrush, the distinction is questioned. Suddenly, like the proverbial silver lining to dark clouds, a joyful song breaks into the poet’s despairing outlook from among the frosty twigs overhead. Listening to this little tale unfold makes the length of the poem feel rather less intimidating somehow; this is a poem to be read aloud, a poem in which the sound of things makes all the difference. The cloudy sky was the roof of the corpse's crypt, the speaker says, and the wind its song of death. He idealises family, community and marriage while persisting with his guise as the lone gazer or observer. Paulin explores themes of vision and revelation in Hardy's poems in this highly readable account. Poetry, History, Memory, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

All of the end rhymes are masculine rather than feminine. ‘The Darkling Thrush’ is rich in metaphor. As exemplified in the poem’s first stanza, the devastation and desolation of the winter environment sets a somber tone for the work. Hardy utilizes such an image to emphasize the non-celebratory nature of the atmosphere the narrator finds himself in. Unfortunately, our feathered friend doesn't give him any answers. The unusual word "darkling," for example, was used by John Keats in "Ode to a Nightengale" and by Matthew Arnold in "Dover Beach. "

Related Questions and Answers for Themes in The Darkling Thrush

Even the thrush, the harbinger of hope, is "aged" and on its last song. Altick's Victorian People and Ideas (1973) describes the social structure of Victorian England, with chapters on technological change, social structure, art, and religion. In 1899, however. Perhaps, as he moved towards the end of his life, Hardy was essentially becoming less pessimistic in his inner musings. These forces show that our grandiose displays of power are frivolous.

This seems to show just how much the feeling of death and darkness is permeating the speaker’s conscious mind. While the poem describes gloomy landscapes, it is confirmed that the speaker themselves feel gloomy as well, in the last stanza where they explain that they don’t understand how the bird could sing so cheerfully when everything around them is lacking joy. ‘The Convergence of the Twain’, too, deals with human vanity, detailing how man dared to defy nature by attempting to create a ship that could not be sunk. Visually, too, it prepares us for the image of the "aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,/ In blast-beruffled plume … " Another use of the -ling suffix is to produce a diminutive of a noun (as in gosling, duckling, sapling, etc.)

“The Darkling Thrush” Summary

That it "chooses" to "fling his soul/Upon the growing gloom" is significant, for it underscores the importance of individuality and free will, contentious ideas for late Victorians who were busy digesting notions that their ancestors were apes and that human beings are driven as much by biological imperatives as they are by rational decision-making. To be, metonymically, a thrush is to respect the thrush's own being, to apprehend, as it were from within, the thrush's independence from the human imagination. The speaker continues describing the landscape around him, comparing the "land's sharp features" to "The Century's corpse" stretched out in a giant grave. To listen to Robert Lapp’s recording of “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy, click on the media link below. ‘The Darkling Thrush’, too, laments the passing of a golden age, in this case the great era of Romantic poetry. They mostly date from the latter part of his life, and feel wistful, regretful; occasionally desolate and alone.

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Modern readers interpret bird-song differently: Norton & Company. Why am i getting so many yeast infections?, she gave me two doses of oral fluconazole. The title refers to a thrush, such as a robin, in darkness (darkling).

” In the preface to his collection, Hardy claims that his compilation of works has been written in differing moods and circumstances and at various times. Antifungal effects of common mouthwashes on candida strains colonized in the oral cavities of liver transplant recipients in south iran in 2020. And I was unaware. All these are lofty concepts that go beyond our five senses. But it is at that point that the next verse begins, and here suddenly there is a shift.

Before moving on to the final stanza, let’s pause just a moment to consider birds in Hardy. Hardy’s tone is typically ironic. We modern readers tend to interpret bird-song differently. Perhaps the thrush is described as “darkling,” because it is, metaphorically speaking, “in the dark.