The Darkling Thrush Question and Answers : an elegy for the troubled nineteenth century


The Darkling Thrush:  An elegy for the troubled nineteenth century

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Question : Discuss “The Darkling  Thrush” as an elegy for the troubled nineteenth century.

Answer:  The poem “The Darkling Thrush” was written towards the end of the nineteenth century , by Thomas Hardy. The poem entirely represents the sadness and hopelessness of the Victorian Era.

      Hardy was troubled by the continued process of industrialisation which caused the depletion of rural agricultural  society and rural custom and traditions. In this poem, the poet expresses his despair and sadness regarding this decay of traditional and natural world. 

        The Victorian era was marked by the intense and rapid change in politics, society and religious beliefs due to new scientific developments brought in by rapid industrialisation in England. 

      Industrialisation has changed the human behaviour and his relation to their environment During the Victorian era, technologies such as the railways, electricity, steam engines and suspension bridges reshaped the working lives of millions of  British. 

      People tend to move from rural areas to industrial cities in search of work there. This caused a great agricultural depression due to decrease in number of farmers.

    The race of colonisation in European countries resulted in many wars, this also degraded the loving conditions of urban labourers. They were now cut off from the any relationship to the land but also cut off from the products of their work. 

       Technological progress and scientific knowledge had not only brought enlightenment to the masses, but also caused to change their religious beliefs, resulting in their misery and pain. 

      Hardy’s hopelessness is mainly due to the abandoned farms of the countryside and for the loss of rural customs and tradition

    The poet feels that he had lost his connection with the nineteenth century and has no hopes for the coming twentieth century. Thus the elegy not only laments the dying nineteenth century but also the coming of twentieth century where there is no hope for a better future.

        The use of words in the poem, like – “spectre grey”, ” winter’s dregs made desolate “, ” weakening eye of day “, ” strings of broken lyre “, ” the Century’s Corpse ” and”the cloudy canopy ” all represent the hopelessness and dejection of the speaker and he finally says –

       “And every Spirit upon earth

         Seemed fervourless as I”

At the gloomy – dark, cold winter night of last day of old century, the poet feels that every living thing on this earth is as despair ed as him. He feels so lack of passion and energy for the future. 

        The use of several imagery of  grave and of death in the poem prove it to be a lament or elegy;  which is  lament on someone’s death.

       “The land’s sharp features seemed to be

         The Century’s corpse outleant, 

          His crypt the cloudy canopy

          The wind his death – lament”

In the above quoted lines the poet compares the bleak landscape with the “death”  of the passing century, with phrases like – “The Century’s corpse outleant” to describe the sharp gloomy features of the landscape with the old century’ s corpse. He used the metaphor  –  “cloudy canopy ”  for the cover of the tomb and “death lament”for the crying of shrilling cold wind.

      He was greatly disturbed to see the desolate farms, devoid of the farmers who were moved towards the Industrial cities.

      He finds himself in a barren gloomy landscape isolated from the other people who found the warmth of their household fire inside their houses. He has no hope of getting any warmth.

       This hopelessness on the speaker’s part is reflected throughout the poem. Though later on , we hear a thrush singing a ” full hearted evensong “

      “In a full hearted evensong 

         Of joy illimited”

          Though the song is full of unlimited joy but its appearance of “An aged thrush , frail gaunt and small”

           The small, weak and aged appearance could not brought in much hope for the speaker. This aged bird who “flying his soul” out on the gloomy night is himself symbolise nothing but the decay of something good.

         Though the thrush finds hope in this gloomy night but the speaker is puzzled that from where it get such hope, when there is nothing to be happy about. 

       “Some blessed Hope, where of he knew

        And I was unware”

He could feel that the bird find some optimism in something it knows, the poet cannot believe in that. He is still unaware of any source of joy or hope.

     This way the entire poem is an elegy for the troubled nineteenth century.

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