The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Darkling Thrush” is a thirty-two-line lyric poem in four stanzas of eight lines each. The first two stanzas provide the setting of the poem. Hardy’s poetic persona is standing at the edge of a “coppice,” a thicket of bushes or small trees. He surveys a desolate scene at the end of a winter day. He is alone in that “haunted night”; all the rest of humankind “had sought their household fires.” The second stanza continues the description and provides two important pieces of information. One concerns the time when the poem was written, December of 1900, which is always included in the printing of the poem. The words “the Century’s corpse” and “the ancient pulse of germ and birth” refer to the turn of the century. The other important information is about the poet’s state of mind. He is deeply depressed, stating that the dismal scene is “fervorless as I.”

These first two stanzas comprise line after line of lyrical description. Details pertaining to death (the bine-stems “like strings from broken lyres,” the “crypt,” the “death-lament,” the “ancient pulse” that is “shrunken hard and dry”) add up to a depressing total. The scene of icy, clear death images and the harsh, austere feeling are firmly set in the reader’s mind.

Now that the reader’s mood has been captured by the frosty, deathly winter scene, surrounded by images of the land’s and the century’s death, the third stanza opens...

(The entire section is 477 words.)