In Scotland this evening, the 31st of December is called Hogmanay. Usually it is a time of celebration, of gleeful gathering and communal hope. All that this year, however, is not to be. There will be no social revelry, no communality, no first footing of friends and neighbours. For, despite welcome and hopeful news of new vaccines, given the threat of a new variation of Covid our government has decided that social mixing is not to be allowed. Many will feel depressed by all this; yet with the vaccines there is still some sense of hope.
Here is a poem by Thomas Hardy that seems to me to express very well our mixed feelings. “The Darkling Thrush” was written on the 31st December 1900 by Thomas Hardy, a great poet, who has a dark fatalistic streak, but is also open to something at variance with his predisposition.
THE DARKLING THRUSH I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, 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 carollings 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.
How brilliantly the poet provides the contrast between the dreary deadened limitation of an earthly December with its lack of solid grounding for any kind of optimism and the wondrous outporing of the little bird!. How beautiful is the expression of its creative urge in the face of all bleakness:
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small, In blast-beruffled plume, Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom.
Let Hardy’s thrush thrush be our example. I love the phrase “fling his soul” . It expresses faith, courage, determination, creativity. May these qualities be ours this coming year.
I wish all readers “A Happy New Year”.