With the dawning of a New Year, I am always drawn back to Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) poem “The Darkling Thrush.” Written in December of 1900 this atmospheric work heralds a new century – a new year.
Deep winter and a frosty suspension of time and movement isolates everyone behind their heavy doors. Like at our farm and in this poem each year on December 31st– all landscapes are touched by clinging hoarfrost and quiet musing. A New Year, in Hardy’s poem, is announced by the frail singing thrush. Its joyful song cuts through the gloomy air and banishes specters from the previous year.
December 31steach year also marks the day when we do the Christmas Bird Count at the farm. And, to my absolute delight—I saw a new species this morning – a Varied Thrush. A solitary black and orange thrush emitting its buzzy police whistle. “Wake up, Wake Up.” Must be Thomas Hardy’s bird come to visit!
The Darkling Thrush BY THOMAS HARDY 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.