Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush” presents the despair regarding the end of a century and the industrial revolution. Discuss.
Or, Discuss “The Darkling Thrush” as an elegy for troubled 19th century.
Thomas Hardy is seen as a modern poet who criticized much of the Victorian society. The declining status of the rural agricultural society and the rural customs and traditions caused by the industrial revolution saddened him. In the poem The Darkling Thrush the poet expresses his despair regarding this decay of a traditional and natural world. Written at the turn of the 20th century, the elegy laments the end of the century which was more natural, more humane and livelier to him. He now is unaware of what is in store for humanity in the upcoming century and finds no hope for something positive. That is why Hardy creates a bleak picture of the world around him — to express the hopelessness and dejection in his mind through the picture of a desolate and dead landscape.
The words like ‘spectre-grey’, ‘Winter’s dregs made desolate’, ‘weakening eye of day’, ‘strings of broken lyres’, ‘the Century’s corpse’ and ‘the cloudy canopy’ — all represent that despair of the speaker. Every spirit on earth seemed to be echoing his lack of passion:
And every Spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
This hopelessness on the speaker’s part is reflected throughout the poem. Though later on, we hear a thrush singing a ‘full-hearted evensong’, its appearance doesn’t inspire much hope. “An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small” can symbolize nothing but the decay of something good. This very feeling that something is lost and can never be regained is haunting the poet. Though the thrush may find some optimism in something it knows, the poet cannot believe in that. He is still unaware of any source of joy or hope:
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Thus, the poem “The Darkling Thrush” presents the theme of despair and dejection that is directly related to the end of the nineteenth century and the industrial revolution.