This poem quickly became my favorite from Chapter 3, mostly due to the powerful imagery and my ability to relate to it on several levels. After reading a little on the poem’s background, I found that this was written at the turn of the 20th century, hence the line “The Century’s corpse outleant”. The idea of finding hope in the future in spite of what has happened in the past, however, resonates beyond just the context of a new era. It can be related to almost every aspect of life. Everyone has experienced, at some point or another, the pervading loneliness that is depicted in the first two stanzas. Hardy’s use of words such as “death”, “corpse”, “crypt”, and “spectre” paint a depressing but effective picture. The reader quickly feels the cold, aching loneliness as he imagines all other humans huddled in their homes over fire, while he is out by himself to face the world.
The third and fourth stanzas change the scene dramatically, with the entering of a single thrush. What is described as “an aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small” is able to change the scene 180 degrees, bringing optimism and hope. The line that struck me most is about the thrush who “Had chosen thus to fling his soul / Upon the growing gloom”, particularly because of the word “fling”. When I thought about why Hardy structured the poem the way he did, I also wondered why he chose the word “fling”. In this context, it evokes such a strong emotion from the reader because the reader can feel his soul open up as well, and bring hope into his own life. A single thrush, seemingly without thinking about his surroundings, is able to belt out a melody from his inner core. From this imagery I believe purpose of this poem is to question where your happiness or hope comes from. Is it from your external surroundings, which continuously change with no regard for you, or from your own inner foundation that is sturdy and will always be the same? Could you sing, in the face of the bleakness, or would you have to wait for someone else to sing to feel inspired?