Today as we stand on the edge of a new year, I am reminded of the poem "The Darkling Thrush" by Victorian Realist, Thomas Hardy. Known mainly for his dark novels where the setting plays a role as significant as any of the characters, Hardy also wrote some dark poetry. Like many of the poets and writers of his time, he feared what lay ahead in the new century as 1899 became 1900, and this poem projects that fear. Unless we read to the end, we do not hear the voice of the Romantics like Wordsworth(who influenced Hardy) which suggests that Nature knows that all will be well, that seasons come and seasons go, and that "the sun will come out tomorrow!" It would behoove us to look for and listen to "the aging thrush" in our surroundings and "some blessed Hope" in his song.
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.