The first poem that is being discussed is The Darkling thrush, written by Thomas Hardy. The poem was difficult for me to make sense of at first, but I slowly started to absorb it as I read it a few times. Although I still don’t have a complete understanding of come of the specific details, the tone was conveyed to me almost immediately through Hardy’s descriptive language. The first two stanzas were filled with bleak words and phrases that brought dark images to mind when you read them. My favorite phrase in particular was “The tangled bine-stems scored the sky; Like strings of broken lyres”. This resonated with me very strongly, likely because of how much I love music. For any musician, the image of a musical instrument being hurt or broken in any way is very distressing. This phrase is describing the forest surrounding the narrator, and the trees above him. The forest he is in helps convey the bleak tone as well.
The image of broken lyres as tree branches is only one phrase that illustrates the dreary tone at the beginning of the poem. The setting also helps communicate this. The poem is set in a forest, at the end of a winter day. The branches are barren, and frost is everywhere. Everyone has gone home to his or her fires, and he is alone. As he stands there, he describes the winter around him, and how “Winter’s dregs made desolate; The weakening eye of day.” In these two lines, the ‘eye of day’ is the sun going down. The winter around him, dark gloomy and cold, contributes to the general glum surrounding the beginning of the poem. When one thinks of winter, they don’t usually think of very pleasant things; instead what comes to mind is cold and miserable weather. Also, this poem takes place a long time ago, when central heating wasn’t invented. Winter for people then was much harsher and colder then it is for us. It was brutal, and often fatal, for many.
Another reason these first two stanza’s communicate a feeling of dread and depression to us is because the second stanza is describing a corpse. Hardy writes “His crypt the cloudy canyon; The wind his death-lament.” This particular phrase shows the darkness of the second stanza. Reading about a corpse or a death in any situation is very morbid, and the way he describes this particular scene makes it even more joyless. He likens the ‘corpse’, or the death of that century, to the land, meaning it’s all around him, surrounding him with death.
Despite the glum beginning, the tone changes after the second stanza. An old thrush suddenly sings his little feathered heart out, filling the barren forest with “a full-hearted evensong; Of joy illimited”. This little bird fills up the emptiness with his music, and causes the gloom to be lifted, even if it’s just a little bit. By the end of the poem the tone is one of