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The Darkling Thrush

The Darkling Thrush
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.
– Thomas Hardy (1900)
* * *

Anne went outside.

It was a mistake.

There was nothing green or open or people-less.

There was no common. There was no hymn (him).

All she could see was the endless summer ahead–the inescapable, perpetual, smothering summer that would snatch her up and wring her out and drape her over the line like so many used garments that are no longer new, fresh, nascent.

Things would not now come together, would they? For Anne.

(Perhaps for anyone.)

She wondered. Why was the bell jar never a shield? How did things, loathsome things, manage to get trapped under there with her? Things that crowded in and made the space of aloneness ever smaller yet ever bigger in the charade-mask of isolation.

Back inside, Anne saw a shape move to obscure the light in a window across the way. She wondered. If the world became inhabitable again, would that shape see her? Talk to her? Love her?

She knew better. She knew she’d eventually be dry on the line–but dried by the diseased wind that left nothing unscathed, uncontaminated. She knew, never wondered, that the endless wonder had an end, an expiry like so much milk spoiled in the heat.

Why fall in love with light-obscuring shapes? A shadow, cool and sunless.

As if in answer, the darkness of the setting sun wrapped itself around Anne and she felt momentary relief.

Unlike loneliness and summer, relief was not to last.

Like the portentous rotting corpse outside that house in Grant Park, new contagion was lingering, pointing a shaking finger at the future.

Anne was blast-beruffled, aged, small, gaunt, and frail. But she wondered. Where in perpetual summer was there to fling her soul?


2 thoughts on “The Darkling Thrush Leave a comment

  1. Wonderfully written, so poetic and so poignant… I especially like how you start your post with “The Darkling Thrush,” by Thomas Hardy. An exceptional poem that sets the mood for the piece to follow. Well-done…

    Liked by 1 person

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