Poetry Sunday: The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

This poem by Thomas Hardy, first published in 1900, starts on a rather desolate and pessimistic note. The land itself is "spectre-grey" and offers little spirit, even as the poet himself feels spiritless. But then he hears the joyous sound of a thrush's song and the song causes him to recognize the existence of emotions beyond despair and isolation. Birdsong can do that for us.

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.


  1. It is a fine and lovely poem, Dorothy. You have chosen well. Mere days ago, out in the snow, the cheerful chatter of Black-capped Chickadees and the nasal calls of White-breasted Nuthatches filled Miriam and me with joy. A Blue Jay joined in and all was well with the world. Thanks for every Sunday poem.

    1. Poetry Sunday is actually a tradition started by my daughter when she was blogging several years ago. Then her life got too busy for blogging and I decided to keep the poetry tradition going here. I'm always glad to share a poem.

  2. We felt so discouraged the first few weeks of FeederWatch, with only a couple of birds seen each week. But this week, with the onset of cooler weather perhaps, we have seen eight species, and that lightens my heart. Nature humbles me, like the speaker in the poem, and reminds me of blessed Hopes that Nature holds close but of which I am unaware.

    1. Like you, I've noticed the traffic picking up at my bird feeders this week with some migrants showing up. Seeing them, hearing them always makes me happy.

  3. Just a sweet poem. Leaves you feeling all warm inside.

    1. The poem ends on a contented and hopeful note and that gives us that warm feeling.

  4. i've not been a great fan of Hardy's poetry: it's seemed a bit contrived to me, with invented words and such, but i admire his perceptions a lot...

    1. I think he is not known so much for his poetry and there is probably a reason for that.

  5. I've never read this Thomas Hardy poem before. So nice! :)


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