With a fleeting look, The Darkling Thrush appears to be the standard, depressing narrative of a lost and disenchanted poet. Formally, the particulars of the poem are well defined, consisting of four octaves, every stanza including two quatrains in hymn measure. The poem’s author, Thomas Hardy, was an English poet, novelist, and architect, whose work often reflected his own enduring and apathetic pessimism, as well as an awareness of misfortune and disaster among human existence. The Darkling Thrush is no different.
Through a combination of figurative language, pessimistic metaphors, and depressing similes, Thomas Hardy employs the poetic mechanism of imagery to illustrate a desperate and unpromising centennial change. The poem begins with a plethora of dark and dismal images. Hardy, who is presumed to be the narrative author, “leant upon a coppice gate”, the winter’s frost was a ghostly gray, which indicates a more dismal and dreary condition then that of pure, white frost. Hardy continues to describe the gloomy scene by illustrating that, as daylight drifted away because of winter deposits,
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fire Here, Hardy addresses two things. First, he continues his imagery of the desolate, unforgiving winter, covering the sky with tangling clouds. Then he ends the first stanza with the recognition of other humans who are familiar with the dreary landscape and the gray, merciless condition. However, their mystical manifestations have retired to the solace of their household fires, leaving Hardy an isolated onlooker.
The second stanza introduces the fact that this recollection is being told at the turning point of a century. A morbid image is portrayed, as he writes that “His crypt the cloudy canopy. ” Hardy describes his situation as would be similar to being in a coffin, the sky being the lid. He continues to suggest his own, slow demise with pessimistic metaphors, such as, “The wind his death-lament. ” The ending of the century is not simply an end of one and the beginning of another, for Hardy cannot see any hope for a new beginning. The turn of the century, for the speaker, signals the point in which time will stop.
Without relent, Hardy concludes his description of the condition in which he exists in by saying, The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fervourless as I Two things are particularly interesting about the imagery Hardy uses in the finale of the second octave. First, Hardy had particular reason for using the words, “ancient pulse of germ and birth. ” When reading the words pulse and birth, the image of the pulse of a heart comes to mind, symbolizing the rhythm of life.