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The Darkling Thrush
The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy

Speaker Point of View

Who is the speaker, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

Our speaker has a very active imagination. He uses elaborate turns of phrase and whimsical references to things like the seasons and feelings as if they're honest-to-goodness people. Which is lucky, actually, because he doesn't seem to be making all that many human friends.

Come to think of it, we don't know all that much about the speaker. Is he old? Young? Married? A pirate? We can't really say. (We're seriously hoping for the pirate, though. We just wanted to toss that in there.)

Why the deliberate anonymity? Especially when the first word of the poem is, um, "I"? Well, in a weird way, the absence of any definite characteristics makes it easy for the speaker's voice to become the Voice of the Century. Think about it: try reading the first line aloud. Who does the "I" seem to be now? Some random person? Or….you? In a tricky sidestepping of all detail, Hardy manages to create a speaker who could be anybody…or everybody. Feel drafted into a strange role? You should.

Just how seriously should we take our speaker, though? Well, we've talked a little about his credibility in the "Form and Meter" section of this module. We won't re-hash old news here, but the short version is that a case could be made that the poem's form might make us take our speaker's melancholy with a grain of salt. Then again, his worry about the turn of the century is what many people felt at the time (1899). The nineteenth century was teeming with anxiety. Hey, why shouldn't the twentieth be even worse?

That said, our speaker can appreciate happiness when he sees it. It's not like he's the bitter person who goes around quoting stupid sayings like, "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride." He might not be the star of tonight's show, but he's willing to let the thrush sing its little heart out in peace. And that's something.

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