The Darkling Thrush : Aptness of title


The Darkling Thrush  : Aptness of Title

.                                                 image source: Google

Question : Do you think “The Darkling Thrush” is a befitting title for the poem by Thomas Hardy ? Give reason.

Answer:  The title of the poem “The Darkling Thrush” has been appropriately selected by the poet. The word “darkling” means – growing darkness or in the dark, while the “Thrush” is a singing bird, that is grey or brown in colour with a spotted body. 

    The word “darkling” has a wide history in poetry. The word was first used in poetry by Milton, in mid fifteenth century, in Paradise Lost.  Keats used the word in his “Ode to a Nightingale”, Matthew Arnold  in  ” Dover Beaches ” wrote about the “darkling plain”, and in a number of poems by  Wordsworth.

           The word  ” darkling ” corresponds to two meanings in the poem – “in the dark” and   “obscure”. 

        In the title of the  poem – ” The Darkling Thrush “, Hardy appears to have used the literal meaning of ” darkling ” as  “in the darkness” or  “becoming dark”.

       The despair and hopelessness inside speaker is presented as the darkness outside. As the poem starts with the  ” weakening eye of day ” means when the sun is about to set,the the landscape that appears to him is barren and grey – “spectre – grey”  like a ghost. The day is ending and the sun is setting making the twilight desolate. The darkness all around is increasing both literally and metaphorically. It also refers to the darkness of ignorance and the and the scientific progressions that have engulfed the era.

      The period in which the poet lives was characterised by growing industrialisation, distrust in religion and ignorance. The poet yearns for the simpler, truer world that is lost and the outlook for the new century is bleak.

      When he sees the desolated countryside devoid of farmers and native rural people he feels sorrow for the nature and isolated from the whole world. All other people have gone to the comfort of their homes in this frosty – gloomy evening. There is a lack of human emotions. The image of tangled bine – stems resembling  the strings of broken  lyres vividly conveys the utter silence of the scene.

         The speaker compare the features of the landscape to that of a corpse, the corpse of the passing old century. He compares the shrill sound of cold wind with death lament and the “cloudy canopy” as the cover of the tomb of  nineteenth century. He also describes the seeds which were fresh and full of vitality during the spring season, but are now shrunken and dry. The very “pulse” of creation is dead and the nature is at a standstill. There is no hope for the next spring to come.

       In the last two stanza, nature as represented by the singing thrush, displays a sudden vigour. Here too, nature is “senseless” in as much as the song doesn’t arise from anything perceived in “terrestrial things”. That is, the song is not inspired by anything in the immediate scene, or anything that the poet might understand as a reason for the song. The frailty of the bird itself, ” gaunt and small ” with “blast beruffled plumage” also prevents any song.

    If the bird is “in the dark” singing at night and flinging its soul into the “growing gloom”,it appears to be singing for obscure reasons. Whatever prompts the birds song is not evident to the poet.

         The thrush sings a joyful melody, and the happiness starts spreading around. The poet capitalises the ” H” in  “Hope”, thereby to personified as it is blessed by God. The ” illimited joy ” of the song and “blessed hope”it signifies, appears to be a small compensation for the pain men and women endure and have endured through the century. If the bird sings while humanity confronts the desolation of its existence, the thrush’s joy can only be heard as an ironic comment on humanity’s joyless state. The song of the bird at night though full of joy and hope, does not bring any hope for the future and is as obscure as night.

 Thus, ” The Darkling Thrush”  is an apt title for the poem.

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