How does Hardy suggest his own spiritual state by images of darkness, desolation and decay in "The Darkling Thrush"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The spiritual state of the speaker in this excellent poem is emphasised by the bleakness of the landscape which her surveys. Images of darkness, bleakness and desolation abound in the first two stanzas of this poem, with the focus on the "Frost" being "spectre-grey" and "The weakening eye of day" which is made "desolate." In particular, one image that supports the collapse of faith that Hardy is experiencing comes in the first stanza:

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

Like strings of broken lyres...

This simile of the broken harps seems to point towards the absence of joy and the collapse of faith, as harps are associated with angels and religion. In addition, you might wish to consider the funereal imagery in the second stanza:

The land's sharp features seemed to be

The Century's corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

The wind his death-lament.

Note how, as Hardy contemplates the earth at the end of the 19th Century, he seems to view it as dead. References to the "corpse" of the Century and its "crypt" and "death-lament" certainly add to the bleak nature of the poem. As Hardy faces a new century, it is obvious that he regards this as a "death" rather than a new start, and he has little hope for the new century ahead.


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