The Darkling Thrush

I was down to the cottage this weekend past. I stepped out on the deck, and just passed my truck, in front of the cottage, was a lone crow sitting in a tree. As you can see by the color of the lawn, the heat has been relentless this year. The grass has turned brown; pretty well cured on the stem.

Thoughts about the summer coming to an end -- my daughter, who has left for the winter, who may, or may not decide to return the following summer, made me think of this poem by Thomas Hardy.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
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 fevourless 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.

Sometimes... I can't help but feel like the solitary crow sitting on top of the tree and starring out at the barren mud-flats. What is he waiting for? I am, after-all, alone like him. We are at the cottage, and we are alone. Crows are known scavengers and bad omens. Is he waiting for me to die -- to pick what's left of my sun-bleached bones?

But the "aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, in blast-beruffled plume" -- is singing a cheerful tune of hope; perhaps.... something I am really unaware of. Who really knows what tomorrow will bring?

Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, he was also influenced both in his novels and poetry by Romanticism, especially by William Wordsworth. Charles Darwin is another important influence on Thomas Hardy. Like Charles Dickens he was also highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society. If you would like to read more of his poems you can click here to buy a 224 page hardcover book from




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