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Extended commentary of 'The Darkling Thrush' by Thomas Hardy

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Introduction

´╗┐The Darkling Thrush On the title: A thrush is a bird; plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized, often inhabiting wooded areas. They feed on the ground or eat small fruit ? but aren?t famed for their songs. Examples include a robin. ?Darkling? is an archaic word for ?a creature of darkness? or ?in the dark?. Hardy uses it in its latter sense ? the bird appears in a very gloomy scene, at the end of the day, at the end of the year (and century, for that matter). It also has negative connotations as well, however ? for obvious reasons. Potential other implications: ?darkling? is perhaps used to create a diminutive form of the thrush (like a ?duckling?). Other critics have identified the title as explaining, or preparing the reader for the unexpected advent of the bird half way through the poem, appearing into the scene from nowhere. Perhaps Hardy was attempting to use an antiquitated word to further demonstrate the bird is bringing joy to a dark land, and that there exists an enormous time difference between the new century and the old? Overall Structure: Hardy uses four regular eight line iambic stanzas; in either ?tetrameter? or ?trimeter?, depending on the length of the line. This meter creates a poetic lilt, with alternate stressed feet. It seems very out of place in such a depressing poem - we must question why this is. ...read more.

Middle

Hardy?s comparison of them to broken lyres is interesting. Lyres are a) harmonious in Classical literature and b) belong only in Classical literature. Hardy is clearly stating that the scene is not ?harmonious? or perhaps the ?death-lament? later mentioned isn?t. Or is it also a reference Hardy?s romantic passion for the past, that it was somehow better than the day in which he writes? Second Stanza Notes: The first four lines of this stanza deal explicitly with Hardy?s ?dead Century? metaphor. He imagines the land before him as ?the Century?s corpse outleant.? Quite what ?outleant? means, I have no idea, (The OED has confirmed that ?outleant? is not, nor ever has been a word) but ?his crypt [becomes] the cloudy canopy? (the cloudy sky) and ?the wind his death-lament?. One need not explain it in any more detail; the implications are quite explicit. Hardy?s persona clearly didn?t approve of the past century, but had yet to indicate an emotional reflection on the future. He imagines England as a rotting corpse, essentially. However, note the use of the verb ?seems? ? is all as it seems? However, Hardy goes on to write even more damningly of his persona?s scene. ?The ancient pulse of germ and birth? ? the regenerative power of life, following Winter?s onslaught ? ?was shrunken dry and hard?. Nothing appears to be growing back ? is this another indication of the end of the world, or certainly of an era. ...read more.

Conclusion

On some key language points: * Note more religious emphasis: ?carolings? typically sing hymns at Christmas time. Hymns are definitely religious! * Perhaps there is an equally religious connotation which Hardy applies to his comments on the ?terrestrial things?. If there is not any cause for singing about things on Earth, then perhaps, reciprocally, there is cause for celebrating the sky, or heaven? ?That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.? It is a rather ambiguous ending upon which Hardy chooses to conclude, but he achieves a sense of dramatic effect through it. The persona realises the presence of (a perhaps religious) hope, in the fact of utter desperation, but it is unintelligible to him. In an odd way, the reader is forced to consider whether the persona is being entirely accurate: * Can one be unaware of something, yet still able to write about it? * Does this tell us that the persona, as a Modernist, is able to perceive such an uplifting messages but unable to interpret them in such a way as to ?release? himself from the ?dark?? Hardy himself was a modernist and therefore dwells upon an odd lot of ideas. Amongst them was ?searching for hope/meaning to darkness and cruelty?. Despite being a realist, he was deeply influenced by Romantic notions (look them up) ? perhaps this exploration is one of them? * The use of ?blessed? again implies a deified presence within the thrush?s message. Is the persona experiencing some divine inspiration? ...read more.

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