Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Darkling Thrush

I have been an avid poetry lover all of my life.  When I was a student at UNC Greensboro, our textbook, “Sound and Sense” had many poems both familiar and unfamiliar.  I still have the original book to this day and it is a constant companion.  It still bears my maiden name along with my dorm name and room number…”Nancy Mills, 303 Hinshaw”.  The pages are worn and dog eared with notations made in the margins.  I still remember the young professor I had that was actually the older brother of one of my high school friends.  He certainly facilitated unraveling the meaning of some of those poems.  Thank you, Bob Gingrich. 

Now, as winter is closing in, it's time for one of my favorite poems to be read once again, "The Darkling Thrush".  It is by Thomas Hardy and was written in December of 1900.  I like to pretend it was written on my birthday!  It is about hope vs. many are feeling these emotions at this time.  I dedicate this to my former student, Melissa Martin Glick.

 The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
 December 1900

I leant upon a coppice gate
 When frost was specter-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 fervorless 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.

 And no matter how many times I read this poem, at the end, my eyes are always wet.  Thank you Mr. Hardy for being able to stir my soul over and over through the 40 or so years since first I read this poem.

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