Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"The Soulflinger"

  Every so often, it seems like a good time to share my favorite poem with you, that is, "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy.  For various reasons, this seems like one of those occasions.

"The Darkling Thrush"

I leant upon a coppice gate
when Frost was specter-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.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
the Century's corpse outleant,
his crypt the cloudy canopy,
the wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth
was shrunken hard and dry,
and every spirit upon earth
seemed fervorless as I.

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.

So little cause for carolings
of such ecstatic sound,
was written on terrestrial things
afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through
his happy good-night air
some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
and I was unaware.

(Thomas Hardy, December 31, 1900)

     The thrush is my favorite literary figure.  Outside of Scripture, no character more thrills, inspires, and challenges me to see and affirm God's working in all things, including times of "the growing gloom."  I do not know whether Thomas Hardy was a believer.  Some historical indication is that he was not.  The Lord nevertheless moved upon him as he wrote "The Darkling Thrush," providing a special grace of imagery, inspiration, and meaning.  I have never read the poem without being deeply affected, to the point of often being moved to tears.  And, I don't suppose I ever will.

"They caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God."
(Acts 16:19-25' emphasis added)

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