An examination of Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush”
The Darkling Thrush" is a poem occasioned by the beginning of a new year and a new century. It is formally precise, comprised of four octaves with each stanza containing two quatrains in hymn measure. The movement of the first two stanzas is from observation of a winter landscape as perceived by an individual speaker to a terrible vision of the death of an era that the landscape seems to disclose. The action is in how the apprehension of this particular moment of seeing changes as the emotional impact of the scene solidifies.
I leant upon a coppice gate ...view middle of the document...
"DE solate" when spoken as normal speech lengthens its duration in a falling cadence in comparison to "COPpice GATE" even though it maintains regularity metrically. Although the line is enjambed, the tongue requires a little adjusting, and another slowing down occurs with "The", and "weakening" inserts an extra unstressed syllable, (iamb, anapest , iamb), to the full stop of "day".
The figure of the sun as a "weakening eye" is a personification, a trope resonating off Romantic associations such as Wordsworth's "eye of heaven" for the sun in "Resolution and Independence". It establishes the poem's time as at the closing of a particular day at the end of a seasonal year. Whether the Romantic allusion to visionary powers and their ebbing is noted or not, it is a suggestive adjective for a time when seeing is becoming more difficult due to a reduction of light. As the poem moves further away from visual observation to emotional coloration, it replaces concrete detail with pathetic fallacy, a rhetorical device by which we, in Santayana's words "dye the world our own color" (Santayana, 159).
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres . . .
The next two lines also have a Romantic link to Coleridge's aeolian harp and the music it made at another dusk when it exemplified Unity, "one Life within us and abroad/ Which meets all motion and becomes its soul". A "wild harp" is also the image opening Coleridge's own "Ode to the Departing Year", a poem in which the harp is unable to evoke a lasting hope (Coleridge, 56). Now , at the turn of the nineteenth century in Hardy's poem, the lyric instrument is broken. It is important to note that the image springs from a concrete detail. The stems of a climbing vine, such as woodbine or hops, that could be found on a gate and neighboring trees, are part of the actual country scene. Vines, denuded and tangled in wintertime, do look like a mess of sprung strings. The vines elaborate subtly on the idea of dregs, both as the residuals of summer fertility and harvest, and the idea of lees, the base remainder of wine. The...