(Poetry for Students)

The Darkling Thrush cover image

Stanza 1
The opening lines of “The Darkling Thrush” establish the tone and the setting of the poem. Hardy underscores the speaker’s meditative mood by describing him leaning upon a “coppice gate,” meaning a gate that opens onto the woods. The presence of frost tells readers it is winter, and the adjective “spectre-grey,” a word Hardy coined, suggests a haunted landscape. The word “dregs” means the last of something, but here the dregs act upon the “weakening eye of day,” making the twilight “desolate.”

In the fifth and sixth lines, the speaker uses a simile to compare “tangled bine-stems” to “strings of broken lyres.” Bine-stems are the stems of shrubs, and a lyre is a stringed musical instrument similar to a harp. Although “score” is a musical term, Hardy uses it to create an ominous visual image. While the speaker is outside contemplating a bleak landscape, the rest of the world is comfortably inside, warmed by “their household fires.”

Stanza 2
In this stanza, the speaker uses metaphor to describe the barren landscape as the corpse of the nineteenth century. The now personified century is entombed in the sky (“the cloudy canopy”), and the wind is its “death lament.” Lines 13–14 refer to the seeds of spring, which are now “shrunken hard and dry.” The description literally depicts what happens to seeds during winter, but figuratively the...

(The entire section is 502 words.)