Orel, the vice president of the English Thomas Hardy Society, uses a biographical approach to read Hardy's later poetry. Towards the end of the poem it becomes apparent that the poets mood has lifted. Neither of these poses a very precise or significant parallel. But why in the world would you want to know anything about Hardy's philosophy of life? The tight rhyming gives strength and authority to the poem, but the metre is more relaxed, giving a natural and free-flowing feeling to the lines. Whatever trick the poet tries he cannot evade the thrush. There is a third level of irony, that for all his protestations of metonymic identity with the thrush the poet cannot deny his consciousness, of himself and even of his compulsions. However, odes can be written in a more private, personal vein, as in the reflective way that Thomas Hardy writes this one.
Nature In Hardy's poem, nature is not a pretty place where flowers bloom and fuzzy animals frolic in the sun waiting to be petted. 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 blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom. There is an Italian proverb, 'L'uccello canta nella gabbia, non di gioia ma di rabbia' the bird sings in the cage, not in joy but in rage , which Webster might almost be translating in 'We think caged birds sing, when indeed they cry. The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fervourless as I. Our only syntactical guide is the perfect tense of the final line, which may encourage us to take 1.
The speaker in the poem creates a gloomy and negative tone; yet, in the end it becomes slightly more upbeat, when the belief of hope is spread from the thrush. He was born in a humble family, and his modest upbringing made him rail against the power and privileges of the elite class. This effect of 'conscious illusion' is characteristic of Hardy's poetry: other examples include 'The Oxen's 'Hoping it might be so' and 'My head unturned lest my dream should fade' from 'The Shadow on the Stone'. The strange sound seems to announce that hope and health is returning. Because of such scientific and philosophical developments and discoveries in the nineteenth century, religious faith had declined among the overall population. At the very moment when the poet has effected a partial detachment—through self-consciousness—from metonymic identity with the thrush, the distinction is questioned.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth Was shrunken hard and dry, And every spirit upon earth Seemed fervourless as I. Finally, there is no sound at all. But every ending is also a beginning of some sort, a limit marking the end of one thing and the start of another. Through identity and simultaneity the poet is free of the feelings of desire and regret that characterise Romantic Lyric; his 'I' is absent; his feelings are elicited not by not being a thrush but by being metonymically poet and thrush. The evidence of the landscape, what is 'written on terrestrial things', is insufficient cause or occasion of this poem.
Poem Text I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-grey, And Winter's dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day. The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires. By 1901, although churchgoing remained a regular part of small town life, only about 20 percent of the people in London regularly attended services. Was Hardy an incorrigible optimist? It is governed by the cycle of life and death and is largely indifferent to human needs or desires. The song is—audibly—'full-hearted', and the thrush is—visibly—'frail, gaunt, and small', but where is the poet who has heard and seen these things? It wants to say that all not finished yet.
These early poems praised country life. Just as there is no process, no desire for identification, no equivalent of Shelley's 'Be thou me, impetuous one! The center of Whitman's poem is the thrush's 'carol' which is, explicitly, identical with the poet's poem: And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird. Carl Weber, the Hardy scholar who usually knows such things, says Hardy perhaps got the idea from W. A writer like Hardy could no longer take solace from Christianity, or have unequivocal confidence in the future of the world. The song of Keats's nightingale has a beginning—albeit unspecified—and a stated end: 'Fled is that music'. That's not to say that he isn't a pretty big deal in his own right.
Hardy can see no cause for joy, but he can hope, that the thrush can see something he himself is unable to perceive. I will go into one element at the time, and them give examples from one stanza only in that element. The Thrush he sees rustling into the sky is old, like him. It is formally precise, comprised of four octaves with each stanza containing two quatrains in hymn measure. The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires. The third stanza proceeds without the poet looking at or hearing the bird, and without any comparisons, whether metaphor or simile. Like 'chosen', 'written' is a residue of the language of poetic fallacy, to be used only ironically or sentimentally: landscape can be interpreted as 'written' only by an observer who can presuppose a writer, and Hardy is not that observer.
Paulin, Tom, Thomas Hardy: The Poetry of Perception, Macmillan, 1975. By alluding to such a state, Hardy shows how he perceived England to be then — insipid and emaciated. As integral as are metaphor and resemblance of the 'Great Chain of Being', are metonymy and contiguity to Evolution. In giving shape to despair, as Beckett obeys the injunction in Watt—'Nothingness in words enclose'—there is always a purpose implied, even faith and hope. While in Keats and Shelley the bird is implicitly a symbol of the poet or the poetic imagination, Whitman's thrush is explicitly so: the bird is so common, his habitat so unpoetical, that Whitman need make no pretence of having 'actually' heard him: Song of the bleeding throat, Death's outlet song of life, for well dear brother I know, If thou wast not granted to sing thou would'st surely die. By the conventions of symbolism the poet is, of course, the thrush, but he has not become the thrush. His many awards include the Order of Merit, 1910, from the British government and a number of honorary doctorates in literature from schools such as 1913 and 1920.
So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think … The 'I', being detached, looking at the landscape, listening to the song, can see no cause for the singing of the bird which is the writing of this poem. For Coleridge poetry is mediated by a willing suspension of disbelief; for Hardy that willing suspension is part of the poem's being. The dramatic situation and the subject itself pose an obvious parallel between the two poems. The movement of the first two stanzas is from observation of a winter landscape as perceived by an individual speaker to a terrible vision of the death of an era that the landscape seems to disclose. Silence might differ, but for Hardy and the thrush, as for Beckett, silence is not an option.
It is well known that Keats wrote his poem on a spring morning in 1819, while staying with Charles Brown at Hampstead. Hardy was ill at ease with the class-ridden, tradition-trapped Victorian age. The hardy bird has not given up. This is Hardy's resolution of the contradiction faced by numerous later writes—Kafka, Beckett, Ionesco, among other—that, however negative the intended mood or meaning, artistic form is always positive. In 1871, he published the novel Desperate Remedies in three volumes with William Tinsley, but its sales were mediocre. To conclude, the bird in both poems is of great significance. That birds sing from compulsion, and not unconsciously but from pain, has long been known.