What features of the landscape promote the poet's gloom in the first stanza from Thomas Hardy's "Darkling Thrush"?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Thomas Hardy creates a bleak, unforgiving landscape in the first stanza of "The Darkling Thrush" through imagery and diction. The first stanza captures the bleak and gloomy mood of the landscape by vividly portraying the colors, quality of light, and physical characteristics.

Color of the Landscape

The opening first lines have a ghostly connotation:  "I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray" (1-2).  Hardy's word choice of "spectre" casts an eerie, morbid gloom over the setting and suggests a supernatural or other-worldly involvement in the natural landscape.  Here, frost is not a bright, illuminated white, but rather a washed out, pale gray.  The color scheme Hardy presents feels frail and worn-down.

Quality of Light

In the next two lines, Hardy uses personification to portray the quality of light in the landscape with "the weakening eye of day" which is "made desolate" by "Winter's dregs" (3-4).  The light of day fades; Hardy's word choice, Winter's dregs," suggests that winter lingers on, but just barely, leaving the speaker in a barren landscape.

Physical Characteristics

The last two lines of the first stanza informs the reader of a physical detail, "tangled bine-stems" which clutter the landscape by the "coppice gate" (5).  The detail and imagery of the tangled vines against the pale, fading light of the sky evoke a haunted, moody feeling.  Using simile, Hardy compares the snarl of vines to "strings of broken lyrics;" what once may have been melodic and beautiful now stands ruined and discordant.  Hardy uses the comparison to reveal the conflict within nature in the last days of winter and his own despairing feelings of gloom. 


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