In the face of the turn of the century over 100 years ago, English writer and pessimist Thomas Hardy wrote this poem, well aware of the daunting future that lay ahead for the world. Like William Butler Yeats in his prophetic poem "The Second Coming," Hardy predicted that things were falling apart.
Hardy, a writer of the bleak and stark nature of mankind as reflected in the bleak and stark nature of the English moors, rarely found the good in things, mostly just the dark. And yet, in this beautiful poem which he wrote on New Year's Eve 1899, there is a glimmer of hope.
(Read aloud for full effect!)
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.
Here we stand on another precipice, the turn from one decade to another, faced with much about which to lament, much about which to worry. But like Hardy, I suspect if we listen closely to the natural world around us, we will hear "Some blessed hope" about which we are unaware. Happy New Year, my friends. May you find great comfort in the natural world!