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The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy (and SAT Essay Prep)

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.

— Thomas Hardy

There are days in late winter when nothing but a poem will do. I hope you enjoy the imagery in Hardy’s verse, as well as the hint of hope that lingers at the end. Spring must be just around the corner!

If you’d like to have your students practice their penmanship while boosting their literacy, you may want to have them copy a poem a week. Be sure to read it aloud to them, so that they can appreciate the lyricism of the spoken verses. If you click on the photo of the thrush, you can read more about it at Wikipedia, or you may click this link to the Handbook of the Birds of the World (a wonderful resource) for a more detailed look the amazing number of thrush species.
Announcements

A Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop is planned for March 7 in Short Pump, Virginia. You can find full information the essay workshop page.

We had an enjoyable BTC workshop yesterday in Colonial Heights. As always, it was fun to read the student comments at the end. I ask them to write down what they found helpful, what they might like to see done differently, and what high school English curriculum they used.

Sometimes I receive some very interesting comments and suggestions! This time, one student wrote, “I think a week class would be good idea…”; another named the curriculum they had used, and commented, “…but it was terrible.” The “thinking on paper” step is one of the most popular items mentioned, followed closely by the time formula.

I truly enjoy these opportunities to connect with the students, as most seem to finish the day with a renewed sense of confidence in their ability to write timed essays, not only for the SAT, but also for college exams, and even for the rough drafts they need to write in other academic subjects. I hope to see you there someday!

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1 Response

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