The Darkling Thrush

 And Other Poems

Thomas Hardy

              Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), the writer of a half dozen well-regarded novels and The Darkling Thrush and considerable other poetry that is still admired, writes classic, metered and rhymed poetry that concentrates on nature, and especially on birds.  My problem with it is its subtly negative slant.  In his featured poem, The Darkling Thrush, he writes in pertinent part:

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.

At least he allows that the thrush may be aware of some reason for joy that Hardy has missed.  In his Tess’s Lament, in a poetic tribute to his classic, gripping and tragic heroine of his novel, Tess of The D’Urbervilles, he has Tess give her last words lugubriously:

It wears me out to think of it,

To think of it,

I cannot bear my fate as writ,

I’d have my life unbe;

Would turn my memory to a blot,

Make every relic of me rot,

My doings be as they were not,

And gone all trace of me!

Tess is so painfully real, in his novel, real to the point of desperation.  Would that Hardy still lived and that we could convince him to lighten the end of the tale of Tess and afford us peaceful sleep.  I loved his (Must Read) Tess but abhorred his brutal denouement of her saga.  His poems overuse the word “gloom” and generally offer us little relief:

There was a shade entombing

All that was bright of me.

This sums up this poet of woe.  His tributes to Nature can’t overcome his morose mood.   It’s so sad.  Hardy was a medical doctor, who practiced medicine largely for free, as he so lamented their depraved lot in life, and he turned to writing to support his humble life style.