The Darkling Thrush: Themes and Tone: 2022 (2023)

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Last updated on September 9th, 2022 at 03:17 pm

Primarily speaking of his philosophical outlook, Thomas Hardy was a man of intensity, and his poems are a reflection of that vehement personality. He is perhaps better known as a novelist, but his poems have been described as musical, powerful, and often mournful. The poem, The Darkling Thrush, is an honest example of his classic style. Through the bleakness of the landscape, the narrator muses over the problems of mortal life on the eve of the century’s finale. In this poem, we can observe the poet’s preoccupation with time, change, and remorse.

The poem was first published in The Graphic on 29 December 1900 and was originally titled “The Century’s End 1900”. The poem unfurls on closure and is a dark yet hopeful meditation on how death precludes birth, and the cycle is never broken. It is also haunting scrutiny of Victorian society and its intellectual progress contrasted by its socio-cultural failings. The poet experimented with meter and stanza forms producing a huge variety of verses. He also used colloquial language in his literary works, which was partly inspired by fellow Dorset poet William Barnes.


The Darkling Thrush: Tone

Hardy’s analysis of human life is based on characters or poetic figures who are types rather than solid individuals. Their being is seen in relation to other things, such as the moody weather, the seasons, and the changing views of the terrain. The statement that Hardy was a pessimist needs no argument or proof. In his scheme of the universe, no reconciliation is possible between man’s aspirations and the forces of nature, including those of his own nature.

Hence the tone of despair in this poem is easily detected, but this expression is indicated towards the decline and decadence of modern civilization. The poem begins on a tone that suggests a dull and drab winter evening; the tangled crooked stems against the grey darkening skies are all indicators of the storm brewing inside the poet’s mind as in the lines – “And Winter’s dregs made desolate / The weakening eye of day. / The tangled bine-stems scored the sky / Like strings of broken lyres”. This melancholic atmosphere continues and develops in the second stanza of the poem, and the tone spirals further into despair. The primary concern in negative anticipation of an already bleak future at the turn of the century frames the following lines – “The land’s sharp features seemed to be / The Century’s corpse outleant, / His crypt the cloudy canopy, / The wind his death-lament.”

Then in the third stanza, the poem arrives at its climax, as we are introduced to a fragile and vulnerable against the cold little thrush bird and its contrasting yet powerful cry of joy. The tone of the poem in this instance is one of disbelief and surprised amazement as derived from the lines – “At once a voice arose among /The bleak twigs overhead / In a full-hearted evensong / Of joy illimited; / An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small” In the last stanza, the tone of the poem converts from astonishment to a perplexed contemplation regarding the yet undiscovered mysteries of life, as expressed in the lines – “Some blessed Hope, / whereof he knew / And I was unaware.” Therefore, the poem’s tone is one of dejection and hope in the face of the vast uncertainty.

The Darkling Thrush: Themes

There is a very particular theme of nature that pervades through all of Thomas Hardy’s works. Although modernization had drawn man away from the influence of nature saddened the writer, he did not always portray nature as a benevolent presence. Essential and powerful for life but not necessarily compassionate at all times. In this poem, nature at first appears to be a separate and unsympathetic entity bearing down against all forms of life as a sort of punishment in the form of cold, harsh frost, and winds of winter. But he also advocates the idea that where nature punishes, she also teaches and gives hope and consolation in the form of warmth in “household fires” and happy encouragement in the form of the song of a weak bird, which is far more subject to danger in the icy landscape of winter than human beings and yet so much more enlivening and spirited.

(Video) Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy | Analysis | Poetic Devices | Theme |Tone | Rhyme Scheme

Also Read: The Darkling Thrush: Poetic Devices: 2022

Hardy was a celebrated poet of Victorian society, but he never could really adjust to the ideals of his times. In fact, he has more in common with the modern critical thinker in terms of moody isolation and solitude. He had a very set notion about life and human beings in general. He could not accept the negative criticism that he received for these ideas represented in his writings, which drove him to near seclusion. In this poem, the narrator also seems to be secluded and solitary in his musings, looking back at the events of the past century and darkly speculating about the coming one.

While other people at this season avoid the cold and spend time in each other’s company inside the warmth of their houses to celebrate the coming of a new era, the narrator stands outside in isolation embracing the bleak atmosphere, probably by choice, only to mourn the death of the century gone by. Hence, The Century here is personified as a human corpse and hence, relates more than just lapsed time. The abject bareness of the landscape devoid of any other person is possibly a metaphorical theme for some painful personal grief that the poet must deal with in abject loneliness.

The poet’s occupation with death and regeneration also creates a theme in this poem. He describes the death of the century through vivid imageries that are grotesque and compelling and relate the poet’s thoughts on human mortality and his probable fear of it. The words “shriveled” and “dry” and “fervourless” all denote a lifelessness that deeply disturbs the poet and troubles the mind. The absence of the ancient pulse of germ and birth fills the poet with dread over decay and inaction. The winter seems to be consistent and pervading, not a seasonal change expected to pass. But the theme of unbridled and unexpected joyous hope changes everything. You can also refer to The Darkling Thrush: Poetic Devices here.

(Video) Thomas Hardy: The Darkling Thrush

Also Read: Analysis of 'The Workbook' by Thomas Hardy: 2022

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(Video) The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy Explained

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What are the themes of the poem Darkling thrush? ›

Answer: The main theme of "The Darkling Thrush "written by Thomas Hardy is despair and isolation. In this meditative poem, the poet describes the dying of the old world at the turn of the century.

What tone does the poet create at the beginning of the poem The Darkling Thrush? ›

What impression does the poet create at the beginning of the poem, The Darkling Thrush? Solution : Of bleakness and desolation.

What is the tone of the poem Darkling thrush? ›

The tone of the poem in this instance is one of disbelief and surprised amazement as derived from the lines – “At once a voice arose among / The bleak twigs overhead / In a full-hearted evensong / Of joy illimited; / An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small” In the last stanza, the tone of the poem converts from ...

What is the tone of The Darkling Thrush? ›

The tone of the poem is quite formal, written in the form of an ode, which is a conventional lyric poem addressing to a particular subject. It deals with the lack of hope and starts in a gloomy, somber tone till it reaches the end of the poem, regaining hope finally.

What is the main tone of the poem? ›

The poet's attitude toward the poem's speaker, reader, and subject matter, as interpreted by the reader. Often described as a “mood” that pervades the experience of reading the poem, it is created by the poem's vocabulary, metrical regularity or irregularity, syntax, use of figurative language, and rhyme.

What is the tone used by the author in the poem? ›

Tone is the attitude that the writer of the poem exhibits toward his subject or audience. This attitude may be expressed in the subject matter of the poem, the poem's characters or the particular events that the poem describes.

How is the tone of the poem? ›

Explanation: The tone of a poem is the attitude you feel in it — the writer's attitude toward the subject or audience.

How does mood change in Darkling thrush? ›

The mood changes from the beginning to the end all because of the thrush's song. The poem starts in a sad and gloomy mood where the poet laments the dying century, and then it reaches the climax where he hears the song of a thrush. He realizes the frail bird is singing a song of hope even in desolate times like this.

What does the thrush symbolize in The Darkling Thrush? ›

The thrush, which draws on the motif of the singing bird in Romantic literature, represents hope. Like Hardy himself, the thrush uses his voice to create beauty.

What is the main conflict in the poem The Darkling Thrush? ›

The main conflict in the poem is between despair and hope. The poet is torn between these two emotions and that is reflected through nature and the thrush's song respectively.

What does the darkling symbolize? ›

The Darkling's symbol is two overlapping circles representing the sun in eclipse. In When Water Sang Fire, there is a scholar around whom "the shadows seemed to shift as he passed, pulled along by him like a tide." This is the Darkling.

What is the irony in the poem The Darkling Thrush? ›

The irony lies in the fact that the thrush, who is singing even in desolate times, has no apparent reason for being happy or hopeful. The speaker used to believe that all reasons for hope is dying with the century but the thrush teaches him that hope needs no apparent reason.

What are the theme of the poem? ›

The theme of a poem is the message an author wants to communicate through the piece. The theme differs from the main idea because the main idea describes what the text is mostly about. Supporting details in a text can help lead a reader to the main idea.

What is the main theme discussed in the poem? ›

The central theme of a poem represents its controlling idea. This idea is crafted and developed throughout the poem and can be identified by assessing the poem's rhythm, setting, tone, mood, diction and, occasionally, title.

What is the main theme of the poem The? ›

Theme is the lesson about life or statement about human nature that the poem expresses. To determine theme, start by figuring out the main idea.

What is the tone in the poem? ›

Tone is a literary device that conveys the author's attitude toward the subject, speaker, or audience of a poem. Tone is sometimes referred to as the “mood” of the poem, and can be established through figurative language and imagery. All forms of writing have a tone.

What is the tone and mood of the poem? ›

Vocabulary. Tone | (n.) The attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience conveyed through word choice and the style of the writing. Mood | (n.) The overall feeling, or atmosphere, of a text often created by the author's use of imagery and word choice.

What is the tone and theme of the poem? ›

A theme is basically what the piece is trying to say, the main message, whereas tone reflects the narrator's attitude. Tone also has an intimate connection to mood.

What is the main theme or topic of the story? ›

Theme is the main or central idea in a literary work. It is the unifying element of a story. A theme is not a summary of characters or events. Rather, it is the controlling idea or central insight of the story.

What is a theme of a story? ›

A theme is an important idea that is woven throughout a story. It's not the plot or the summary, but something a little deeper. A theme links a big idea about our world with the action of a text.

What is Hardy's message in The Darkling Thrush? ›

Written in December 1900, the poem reflects on the end of the 19th century and the state of Western civilization. The desolation of the scene the speaker sees serves as an extended metaphor for the decay of Western civilization, while the thrush is a symbol for its possible rebirth through religious faith.

Did the Darkling ever love Alina? ›

He may not be capable of love in the ordinary way, but he definitely intends on being with Alina one way or another. However its a bit twisted because really the romance is just a side benefit to the power he gets from her. Maybe in a way, she sees through him and into the good, which is why he likes her.

What is the significance of the title The Darkling Thrush? ›

The word “darkling” means growing darkness, while “thrush” is a bird that is grey or brown in color, with a spotted body. The title can be a reference to the thrush arising out of the dark, and spreading hope around, through its song. The poem starts with the “weakening” of the Sun, which is about to set.


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