COMMENT CLOSELY ON THE FOLLOWING EXTRACT, FOCUSING IN PARTICULAR ON HOW IT EXPRESSES THE DEVELOPMENT OF HARDY’S VIEW OF A ‘NEW WORLD’.
THE DARKLING THRUSH
I learnt 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 crept the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard an 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
The poem,‘The Darkling Thrush’ is one of the poems written by Hardy on the eve of the 20th Century. It is also a time when the poet is advanced in age and for him too, it is like standing between the past and the future. The past is synonymous with rapid industrial growth with its attendant complications and challenges. However, the poem gives a hint of hope to what would have otherwise been a rather pessimistic poem in the ‘new world’, which the poet is able to see.
Hardy uses contrast of two different worlds, the old and the new one to accentuate the emergence of the other one. The old one is the world portrayed in the first two stanzas in the poem. Even from the leaning of the persona on the coppice gate, a picture of frustration is created. The setting during winter equally creates a dreary and dying atmosphere. The visual imageries employed paint a world of abnormality and oddity. This explains the Frost that is ‘spectre gray’ and the ‘Winter’s dregs’ that ‘made desolate the weakening eye of day’. The sombre and sorrowful atmosphere is complemented by a rich vein of auditory imagery captured through the sounds coming from strings of broken lyres. The scene of death becomes more pungent in the second stanza, only that this time, the state of things the persona confesses bear semblance to his deplorable condition.
To accentuate this contrast, sound effects are also employed. The first two stanzas are marked by many end-stops to create a sombre, solemn and dreary feeling. The only exceptions are in the first and seventh lines where domestic atmosphere is created. However, in the third stanza when the bird comes to the scene, there is ample application of enjambment, to create a sense of hope, excitement and rejuvenation. Where there are exceptions in caesuras and end-stops, they are applied to check the outflow of excitement
The suddenness of the emergence of the bird’s voice is quite dramatic and effective in introducing the new world in the poem. This appearance is also well captured by the vivid description of the bird as aged, frail, gaunt, and small. The irony here is that one would expect the kind of voice of far-reaching consequence that emanates from the bird to come from a rather beautiful and robust bird. For emphasis, the poet employs caesuras to mark these epithets. The imagery of the sacrificial nature of the bird is created as it willingly decides to ‘fling his soul’ to save a dying world.
One effect that is presented and would raise a question is, why such a new inspiration would could from an unlikely source of an old and dying bird? Hardy probably believes, as it has been depicted in most of his poems that, it is only in the old and new order, meeting in cooperation that the future could be secured. The bird thus brings a sense of hope to a hopeless world.
The poem that opens on a pessimistic tone ends in a rather optimistic one. The objectivity of the persona is quite interesting. Though he does not seem to have been fully bought over by the ecstasy or even convinced by it, he could not but appreciate its desirability at this point in time. Though he still carries the tired countenance and feeling of the old, passing century, he now appreciates the prospect of something positive that the future would yield.