The Darkling Thrush

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 from 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 outburst 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 carollings
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.
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Arborfield said...

Read this morning on BBC Radio 4 just after 6am. Great to wake up to Thomas Hardy.

Nomad said...

Oh, you heard it too, then!
It WAS good, and this is a sharp, shivering, marvellous poem. Shivering, that is, until the stream of gold bursts out on the frosty air! I love the image of the bedraggled thrush; that such song comes from these tiny, embattled bodies never fails to astonish me.
Nothing short of a daily miracle.

Thanks for writing the poem out here; it is lovely to be able to read it, as well!