Analyse of “the Darkling Thrush”

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Analyse of “The Darkling Thrush”

Thomas Hardy presents a theme of hope in his poem The Darkling Thrush. In the poem winter season has brought about death and despair. A tired old man leans over a coppice gate in a desolate area, to see the ghosts of the past and little hope for the future.

Hardy uses imagery to evoke ideas and images in the readers mind. “The land's sharp features seemed to me. The Century's corpse outleant, His crypt the cloudy canopy, The wind its death-lament.” In describing the landscape he refers to the landscape as an intimate object as if it were human. He compares the landscape to a dead body laying all around him and the clouds becoming the coffins top, and the wind his death lament. The man also describes the landscape to have as much life and spirit as he does.

Hardy choose his words carefully using negative words such as gray, desolate, broken and haunted. This negatively leads us to believe that this is how Harper feelings are; alone and frightened out in the cold. While still using a negative tone Harper tries to turn the poem to a somewhat positive tone. He continues to use wording such as frail, aged, gaunt and small but adds in wording like full-hearted and joy illimited. The change of wording suggests a shift in the tone of the poem. A songbird has entered, spreading warmth and hope into the earlier desolate and dead landscape.

The theme of hope is introduced with the appearance of a songbird in stanza three. The bird is meant to resemble hope and that things are not quite over yet even though it may seem so. In the winter months death is brought forth yet in the coming of spring restores that life once again. The poem suggests that if one doesn’t give into the negative a positive can and may come forth; whether one is aware of this or not.

In the poem’s last stanza the man reveals his thoughts as if his thoughts as if he has see a glimpse of hope as the life songbird colours the air with its song. “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.” The stanza suggests that there may be hope after all. Is it the spring coming once more? Or is it just the ghost messing with him?

Hardy’s poem as well as its overall theme is a reflection of the time period he lived in. The poem takes place on New Year’s Eve, the last day of the 19th century. The queen is barely breathing her last few breaths and the Victorian Era is coming to an end. Waiting just around the corner is a new era, a new king, and a new Period completely different from the Victorian Era. The theme of hope is presented in a fashion that even though something may seem dark and shadowy that one needs to have a little faith in such matters. Things in the world and life are going to be unclear because nothing is ever sure. Hardy wants readers to have reliance in the world and the transformation of the times.


1. The gate which the speaker is leaning on represent the threshold of the new century. The spectral quality of frost suggests the ageing and the ghostly quality of the landscape. The scene has the mere trace of life, in which natural and human presences are ghostly. The figure of the “weakening eye” symbolizes the ending of the day along with the ending of the century. The “tangled bine-stems” represent a harp which all the strings have been broken emphasizing the “winter’s dregs”. The stanza ends with the speakers awareness that he is alone, the people who usually occupy the land have returned to their home. 2. This stanza also marks the end of a century. The landscape’s features become like an immense body layed out. The first sentence shows the speaker’s mind enclosing the huge space of land and sky into the frightening display of the Century’s corpse in its coffin. The sky is the lid. The second sentence...
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