Is the symbolism in the following stanza from "The Darkling Thrush" religious in nature? "At once a voice arose among      The bleak twigs overheadIn a full-hearted evensong      Of joy...

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Most of the symbolism in the poem is aimed towards the finding of hope in seemingly dire circumstances. The idea is that there is no place where life will not be renewed, even if the whole world seems dead. In this stanza, the thrush sings for the first time, and the narrator is transfixed by its ability to find and create joy regardless of the place and time.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
(Hardy, "The Darkling Thrush,"

The term "evensong" refers to the Anglican evening prayer, often sung by a church chorus. In this context, the narrator is comparing the thrush's song to a religious prayer; he thinks that the thrush is thanking God for its lot in life, just as the evening prayer thanks God. In this sense, the thrush could represent the power of prayer and its meaning both spiritually and physically. Because the thrush is capable of singing its praise, whether deliberately or just by instinct, the narrator is compelled to think on the nature of beauty in nature. The narrator also sees that perhaps his understanding of hope is limited; he now understands that there could be hope in despair, where before the song (prayer) he could not see any hope at all. While the meaning is not overtly religious, it draws on religious themes.


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