“The Darklilng Thrush,” by Thomas Hardy
* I like this poem so much and it has been so influential on my life that I plonked it on the front page of my website.
Quick Note: The Turn
There are different ways of numbering the hero’s journey. Since I’m amending the trek to be The Hero’s Poetry Journey, I instinctively divided it into 14 stages. Why? For sonnets.
(Also for Stations of the Cross, but let’s focus on sonnets, shall we?)
A sonnet has 14 lines. There are two main ways to structure this type of form poem, with infinite variations that still hold true to the form. The more common one in English is the one Shakespeare used, with a turn in the last two lines. The one favored by the Italian poet Petrarch turns after line 8.
Friend, last week we finished week 8. We are at the turn. The journey isn’t near over, but something has changed within us. The poetry is doing its good work. Let’s see where this turn takes us
We can’t do this alone. We need allies who will contribute the thing we most need and don’t have in ourselves for this journey. In my case, I need a darkling thrush. For Hope.
“The Darkling Thrush”
Thomas Hardy’s poem has become one of my absolute favorites since I first learned it by heart in 2020, during a season in which most of the world felt hope-less. Here was a reckless bird with impeccable fashion sense, pointing me away from “terrestrial things” to capital-H “Hope.”
This is not a place I can always get to on my own. I am haunted by “spectre-grey,” “weakening,” “tangled bine-stems,” “broken lyres,” the clouds a “crypt,” soil “shrunken hard and dry,” even a “corpse.” I feel “fervourless.”
But I am not a bird. I dwell on land, not in the air, like the darkling thrush.
Be a Hero
As often as I can, I write outside. When I can’t, I write by a window, so I can see and hear my avian allies.
Lately as spring begins I’ve been watching my redbud tree turn purple. This week I gained new allies — not Sir Darkling Thrush but Mama and Papa Cardinal. They know where to find “Some blessed Hope.”
Even some will do.
What does the poem say about your hero’s journey?
Try to learn at least part of it by heart.
If you like, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro