1. Tom Paulin in The Poetry of Thomas Hardy (London: Macmillan, 1975) contends that "The thrush, as well as being a unique living creature, also represents humanity--man just coping and surviving like the ploughman and broken-down old horse in '"In Time of the Breaking of Nations'" (151). To what extent is the thrush like the ploughman? What else may the thrush represent?
2. The image of "the weakening eye of day," proposes Paulin, implies "the idea of blind circumstances" (151). Taken literally, what does the image mean with reference to the poem's physical setting?
3. Paulin dubs the poem "a humanist's hymn that expresses a very tentative belief in human progress" (151-2). Justify this interpretation with specific reference to the poem.
4. Paulin contends that thematically the song of the bird "represents an optimism about human possibilities for improvement in this world rather than a religious certainty that it will come in the next" (151). How may one argue that this "optimism" is tentative at best? Does this poem have any connection with Keats's famous ode about a bird?
5. Does the flight and the song of the thrush in the midst of a moribund landscape present what essential paradox for Hardy?
6. Why is the Classical musical instrument in the famous simile, the lyre, specifically "broken" (line 6)? In what Romantic poems does the lyre occur?
7. Which specific words connote both spiritual and physical cold and discomfort?
8. How do the dominant colours of the poem--black, white, and red--"connote death and ghostliness and further indicate the desolation of the speaker and the scene" (Burns 87)?
9.Ê Justify the original title, "By the Century's Deathbed."
10. Burns contends that "Stanza three is the turning point of the poem" (88). Explain.
11. Explain how Hardy's "visual imagery," as Burns asserts, shows "man's lost faith and his lack of understanding" (88).
12. How did events in the nineteenth century, particularly in science, undermine "man's religion and sense of divine purpose" (Bailey 167)? How is this rationalist/philosophical context important to understanding the poem?
13. In the expression "blessed Hope" (line 31), why is the "H" capitalized?
Last modified 29 July 2004