December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I thought I'd put up as its New Year's Eve, one of my favourite poems, Thomas Hardy's Darkling Thrush, written as 1899 closed into 1900. Its an important poem, one of the readings I give it is a hopeful one- though at times the current moment and the future look bleak, they looked bleak in the past as well. One of the mercies of being human is that we cannot know the future and whatever it is will surprise both the most mordant of our fantasies and the most hopeful of our prognostications.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
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.


Sean Jeating said...

Thanks for that, Gracchi.
A happy new year to you, the yours and your readers, too.

James said...

Happy New Year, G. And thanks for another year's fabulous reading (thanks too to Sulla, whose recent early C20 politics posts have proved immediately useful).

And it's damn good to read a proper English poem. Milne's Bar in Edinburgh has plastered itself with posters of the frightful Hugh McD and Norman McCaig and other such nonentities. But after them, Hardy. Bliss.

Claudia said...

Happy New Year, Sir, to you and yours. I enjoy many of your posts. And tonight the ray of hope in Hardy's poem, and in your words. Thank you.

James Higham said...

What a way to go into New Year.