How did Hardy treat the theme of death in "The Darkling Thrush."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Hardy's morose poem about the turn of the twentieth century employs a bleak and wintry landscape as a metaphor for the death of the nineteenth century and personification of the end of the century with the "corpse":

The land's sharp features seemed to be

The Century's corpse [the dead body of the 19th century] outleant,

His crypt [grave] the cloudy canopy,

The wind his death-lament.

Clearly, Hardy's despair and pessimism pervades his poem as in line two he describes the Frost as "spectre-gray"; however, the artfulness of the verse offsets this gloom.  For the poet becomes grateful to the aged thrush for its "full-hearted evensong./Of joy illimited."  The frail and aged thrush has chosen

...thus to fling his soul

Upon the growing gloom.

In the midst of the death of the century, the intrepid little thrush comes, to sing bravely in protest and in "Some blessed Hope" for the new century.