The Darkling Thrush

There’s a Song Thrush singing high above. It’s getting dark and I can just glimpse it through the branches. It’s hard to photograph in this light.

Song Thrush - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
Song Thrush in the Dartmoor gloom

It reminds me of Thomas Hardy’s great poem The Darkling Thrush which was first published on 29 December 1900:

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 of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to me
The Century’s corpse outleant,
Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind its 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,
With 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.

It’s classic Thomas Hardy. There’s a doomed air of despondency which surrounds him and follows him wherever he goes, like some small black cloud. It’s almost as if he’s saying to the Thrush, “What right have you to be happy when the whole world is so awful? What do you know that I don’t.”

This one was certainly flinging his soul upon the growing gloom. As I walk back to the car, I can feel a small ray of sunshine following me. It’s time for me to seek my household fire.

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