“The Darkling Thrush” was written by Thomas Hardy on the last day of the nineteenth century. The subject of the poem is about the transition of one century to the next in time and change. The atmosphere is set in the first stanza because we see that it is set in a cold winters day; “When Frost was spectre-gray/And Winter’s dregs made desolate”. Hardy deliberately personifies the season and frost because it makes the weather more powerful and it also gives it human qualities. Further more, the use of winter gives the idea of depression and death which is what Hardy is trying to tell the reader.
This stanza is obviously setting the atmosphere of the poem; it shows Hardy is not looking forward to the future and the only thing he knows will happen is death. A good example of this is in the quotation “The tangled bine-stems scored the sky/ Like strings of broken lyres”. This demonstrates a vivid image of brambles cutting through the sky; showing an idea of death coming from the writer’s imagination. Hardy is trying to show the reader that the turn of the century offers no hope. In the first stanza he only thinks of cold, gloomy, and death as what happens in the rest of his life.
A reason for this attitude might be because he is alone. We know this because in the poem it has the lines “And all mankind that haunted nigh/Had sought their household fires. ” It shows that he is solitary which means that he is depressed and probably jealous of those who had partners. Moreover, when someone is alone time seems to take an eternity because you have no one to talk to and nothing to keep yourself occupied. The second stanza shows Hardy’s bitterness towards the future because he refers to the past hundred years as a human corpse covered by cloth; “The Century’s corpse outleant,/His crypt the cloudy canopy”.
In the same way as saying that he has no longer got anything to live for in the future. The change of the new century offers him no optimistic thoughts. Hardy felt that the past was a good part of his life but the future offered him no purpose of being alive. The quotation: “The ancient pulse of germ and birth/Was shrunken hard and dry,” shows his affection of the past, which is described as being one of growth and energy to change at the turn of the century to think that his life would be crushed by a new era.
It was as if everything had withdrawn and everything was dieing. Hardy explains that “every spirit upon earth” had no energy and was not looking forward to the forthcoming years. This stanza portrays the idea of death, no vigour and nothing to look forward to. Hardy is surprised to hear “a voice arose among/The bleak twigs overhead” in the third stanza. It was a bird singing “a full-hearted evensong Of joy illimited;” this is a good contrast because a bird is singing a joyful song full of gusto when Hardy himself “seemed fervourless”.
However, the appearance of the singing bird surprised him also; “An aged thrush, rail, gaunt and small,/In blast-beruffled plume”. This description is the equivalent of Hardy like a mirror image of himself. There is irony here because he is like the thrush, old and feeble, but the Thrush is ecstatic even though it is a miserable looking bird. Hardy seems to show admiration for the bird because he appreciates the bird as being happy and giving everything it had seeing that it was aged; “Had chosen thus to fling his sole”.
Nevertheless, the reader understands that Hardy still felt that the new year offered no delight explained by the hyperbolic line: “Upon the growing gloom”. He is exaggerating the point that as everyday goes by there is a build up of despondency. Hardy is obviously confused by why the bird is so energetic in a time of what he saw as depressing; he was trying to comprehend the singing Thrush. This third stanza contains contrasts between the depressing atmosphere and the joyful singing of the thrush and the lifelessness of old Hardy and the energy of the old bird.
The last stanza illustrates Hardy’s confusion because he cannot understand any reason for the bird to be happy; “So little cause for carolings/ Of such ecstatic sound”. A reason for this maybe because of his old age, he must have thought there was not much for him to live for because he was alone, unloved in a new century which offered him nothing to look forward to. Even so, he felt the bird must have known of some prospect for the reason that it was so active and blissful; “His happy goodnight air/Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew/ And I was unaware.
” The capital “H” on hope further makes it more powerful to Hardy. It shows he was desperate to find optimism, which he used to have in the past because he looked back with fondness, but he could not find any enjoyment in the future. At this point the reader can comprehend the reason for the word “Darkling” in the title of this poem. This is because Hardy is in the dark at the turn of the century. He had been transformed from being a man full of life in the previous century to be pessimistic in the next. Reasons for this are proven in the previous stanzas of the poem because he mentions that he is alone.
He had no partner, which he used to have in the past, to accompany him and he was getting older; all this equated to no “Hope” for the future. Hardy wrote the poem “The Darkling Thrush” with the main theme of time and change in mind. He was noticeably depressed throughout the poem and must be confused during this point in his life because he was trying to find an answer for why the Thrush is singing with such zest, which signifies how he thought anyone could be content with their life. Hardy therefore tells the reader that he believed that there was no hope in the future for him to adjust.