Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Analysis of "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy

Poem Found Here: "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy



I remember doing an analysis of this poem when I was in college, and even though it has been a while, I think my analysis is still the same.  Well, not really.

In my past analysis, I focused on how the thrush was the focus of the poem -- the poem is titled as such and the big "event" in this poem centers around the thrush.  However, my interpretation now is that the thrush, like it's song, is just a ruse.

But the form first.  The poem is written in an alternate rhyme scheme (ababcdcd) in four octaves -- there's some balance at play here between the speaker, the landscape and the thrush.  The introduction though focuses on the speaker and the landscape, "I leant upon a coppice gate / When Frost was spectre gray,"  Note that introduction of the speaker is interacting with the landscape which opens up to the season, "And Winter's dregs made desolate / The weakening eye of day."  And then the transition to the expansive analogy between the divine, "The tangled bine-stems scored the sky / Like strings of a broken lyres," and then all of man, "And all mankind that haunted nigh / Had sought their household fires."  Note that the lines have no inclusive pact between the divine and mankind -- rather one trying to cope with the scenery.

This couplet brings more of a commentary which I don't know where it's pointed to, "The land's sharp features seemed to me / The Century's corpse outleant."  Sure, I could look up the analysis on other website, but all I looked up was the time frame of the poem -- 1900.  I'm not too sure about what historical event(s) that this could refer to.  But let's take this couplet as stand alone -- the land and the century adds a sense of lingering time to the poem -- as though this bleak type of weather and emotion will continue on being "outlent,"

The next couple lines hyperbolize the weather and the landscape to further exacerbate the bleakness:

     Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
     The wind its death-lament,
     The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
     And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed fervorless as I.

What's important here is the transition of this "death-lament" "shrunken" "hard" and "dry" description to not only the speaker, but also "every spirit upon earth."  This is what the speaker sees and can only see.

Yet there's a shift and I'll quote the whole stanza:

     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,
     With blast-beruffled plume,
     Had chosen thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom

Now what the speaker hears is the song -- note this is the first sonic imagery in the poem (the lyres in the beginning were broken).  And the break of scenery is described as "full-hearted" and "joy illimited" but visually, "An aged thrush, frail, guant and small,"  which goes against the "glowing gloom" -- it's not the description it's the transition.  For that split second, the speaker was able to experience something other than depression out there, but is then falls back due to the visual.

But, this makes the speaker think (but note not judge) about the song, "So little cause for carolings / Of such ecstatic sound / Was written on terrestrial things"  The key here is terrestrial.  When the speaker is going through a spiritual crisis, he downplays the effect to "terrestrial" things so the last lines, "Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew, / and I was unaware" refocuses the poem to a more internal stryfe with the external being a backdrop -- recognizing happiness without feeling it.

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