Midwinter hope

It’s been a while (six months, in fact!) since I posted my tribute to Edward Thomas’ Adlestrop, and the season has now rolled around from midsummer to midwinter.

I can’t resist the opportunity to publish what is possibly my favourite poem of all time: ‘The Darkling Thrush’ by Thomas Hardy. It paints a vivid picture of a landscape in the icy grip of winter; death and desolation reign, but the gloom is pierced by an unexpected ray of hope. This is something that speaks to all of us as we struggle bleary-eyed on cold dark mornings, and then, a few meagre hours later, watch helplessly as the sun collapses below the western horizon.

What else can I say? Nothing. When it comes to poetry, Hardy was (and is) a genius.



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, 31st December 1899


  1. I will never tire of the magic a winter landscape has! The poem expresses it beautifully too.
    Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us 🙂

  2. Love……like strings of broken lyres & his crypt the cloudy canopy, the photo is beautiful and matches the poem perfectly 🙂

  3. This is a beautiful poem, Jo. Our little feathery friends comfort us in all winters of the soul.and I am so grateful to them, Lovely snowy scene –it begged for a poem. 🙂

    • It’s one of those poems that really speaks to you – and yes, you’re right about birdsong being a blessing. Birds go through some tough weather themselves, and I always feel sorry for them in the depths of winter. Thanks for your comment!

  4. You selected a beautiful poem to accompany a beautiful winter image.

  5. Extraordinary how sentiments written so long ago can blast through the ages and recall a moment I’ve had – different place, different time, different observer – so immediately clearly. Lovely. Just so lovely.

    • That’s what I love about this poem – it could have been written yesterday, and the words are so beautifully chosen. By the end, it’s almost as if Hardy is thinking aloud to himself. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much!

  6. Wonderful words and a beautiful photograph to accompany them. Great post!

  7. A delicious wintry feast of a poem!

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