Requested poems from Poetry Please no 5

Poem number 5 in the list of most requested by listeners to Radio 4’s Poetry Please is The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy. Hardy captures the essence of birdsong with his words and the result is a poem perhaps a little more cheerful than yesterday’s Dover Beach. If you are in need of cheer then a visit to The Glass Key in Montmorillon would enable you to pick up a Thomas Hardy volume at little expense.

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 full-hearted evensong
     Of joy illimited;
And 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.

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