The Darkling Thrush
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.
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 fervourless 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
How I love that line: “Had chosen thus to fling his soul / Upon the growing gloom.”
It’s been a difficult few weeks, and I’ve often felt like I was drowning in an inescapable and overwhelming work load. That, coupled with the news that I really shouldn’t be checking late at night before I go to bed, has made me feel a little down lately. When I check the news, my mind can become overwhelmed and exhausted, turning over the continually fluctuating states of global and economic security, the veiled presence of extreme terrorist groups, the problems overseas and in country, the immigrant crisis, shootings and attacks, issues in leadership – all this and so much more.
And it’s not healthy, I know, to be carrying around a portion of the weight of the world in addition to the weight of life on one’s shoulders – I have to remind myself that I do not have to, necessarily. That instead of carrying this weight of life and work and the world around with me, colouring my perception and my daily outlook, I can choose to “fling my soul upon the growing gloom.” I could, if I tried hard, to sing a song of “joy illimited.” Or at least, to find the joy in daily life – in the wonderful moments that I take for granted.
Oh, I know I talk about this a lot. And it’s because I struggle to remember it on a daily basis. Increasingly so, as the semester is now in full swing, and I feel pulled in about a hundred directions. And I think this is why Hardy’s poem resonated so strongly with me this week. There is, I believe, incredible potential in using one’s voice to create enduring change, and we have, within ourselves, the ability to change our own perspective on the world to one of hope and faith in humanity. In doing so, we also inherit the responsibility to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And I need to remember this: that despite my flaws and imperfections, despite my inability to leave my insecurities behind, I do have within myself, the power to help others in whatever ways I can. This can be my way of holding onto “Some blessed Hope” that has the power to lift somewhat the weight of everything. I hope you too can hold onto Hope this week and not be afraid to “fling your soul” out into the world. Here’s to a week filled with “Happy Good-Night Air,” and letting some of that weight in your heart – go.