Thomas Hardy is one of the most distinguished English writers of all time. One of the most prolific poets and novelists in history, Thomas was born on June 2, 1840, in the English village of Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England. His youth was impacted by the musicality of his father, Thomas Hardy sr., who was a stonemason and builder, and his mother Jemima Hand Hardy who passed on her love of reading and books to Hardy. His primary education lasted until the age of seventeen. Because of the financial crunch in his family, he was apprenticed as an architect to James Hicks. His rural background, his love for music, and his apprenticeship as an architect influenced his subject matter and form of his writings.
He wrote numerous novels, which reflect the social and moral concerns of the Victorian Era. His first prose appeared in 1865. his first novel Desperate Remedies was published in 1870. His notable works are Tess of D’Urbervilles, Judge the obscure, The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of the Casterbridge (1886)and others ascertained Hardy as a formidable writer. His first volume of the poem was Wessex Poems(1898), a compilation written over 30 years. Furthermore, Hardy’s poems of war(based on the Boer War and World War I) spoke eloquently against some of the horrors of the war, such poems include works as Drummer Hodge and In the Time of The Breaking of Nations. Best known for his expression of love, nature imagery, the solemnity of feelings and intricately built structure.
In 1910, Thomas Hardy was bestowed the Order of Merit. Leaving all these legacy behind, Hardy breathed his last on 11 January 1928.
ABOUT THE POEM
The Darkling Thrush is one of Hardy’s best poems. The hymn-like metre blends with the Keatsian image of the thrush to produce one of Hardy’s most lyrical poems. The poem was originally published on 29th December 1900, under the title “ The Century’s End 1900 ” in The Graphic. Here, he describes the cessation of the old world at the turn of the century focussing on the end of the 19th century and the onset of the 20th century. A bleak picture of despair and dullness is portrayed in the lyrical style of the poem.
The conditions of the present desolate vacuum could be traced with the prevailing Industrial Revolution and the changes it brought about in society, polity, economy and religious beliefs. The poet is deeply sorrowful of this decaying condition. Suddenly, a bird ( the thrush) appears and hid singing fills the air with a new ray of hope. The poet finds his soul rising and with it the realisation that there is still some prospect in the world.
The Darkling Thrush becomes a substantial poem which does not just project the perception and feelings of one individual but is a representative of the mood of an age.
STRUCTURE OF THE POEM
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.
The Darkling Thrush is a meditative lyric poem comprising of four eight lined stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCD. It is written in iambic tetrameter. The lines one, three, five and seven have four stressed syllables, whereas lines four, six and eight carrying three stressed syllables. The poet chose to bring symmetry in the poem as is evidenced by the simple structure of the poem. Poet has neatly allocated 4 stanzas to 2 parts, firstly, the dark winter evening, then the thrush. Each stanza is an octet – consisting of 8 lines each. We find several self-coined words of Hardy in this poem like–,