Saturday, September 26, 2009


I'm taking an exam all this weekend, one of three that I need for my Ph.D. program. The first exam covered the genre of poetry, and this one covers 19th century British literature. Two things should be apparent here. One: you will be having a much more relaxing weekend than I am. And two: these exams could be improved if we could trim the categories just a smidge.

I’m not sure how this one will go, but the first exam ended up being one of the most rewarding weekends.  Instead of fixating on what else I want to read or learn, it was a relief to spend an entire three days writing down what I already know. A right of passage in some way.

Since I’m yammering all weekend about poems and prose, I thought it might be healthy to simply post one of my favorite poems from the 19th century and not say another word about it. It's "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy.

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 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.


  1. "Instead of fixating on what else I want to read or learn, it was a relief to spend an entire three days writing down what I already know."

    Boy that really struck something, reading that. It's funny how stressed one gets trying to produce or learn, and it'd be nice to sit back and appreciate what you've already produced or learned, but you rarely do.

  2. Very true. There are few times in our lives set aside to appreciating what we've already learned or produced. And usually exams are too stressful to do that. Readings can be that one, too.....