Meter in The Darkling Thrush

Meter Examples in The Darkling Thrush:

The Darkling Thrush 2

"The bleak twigs overhead..."   (The Darkling Thrush)

In this couplet heralding the arrival of the thrush, Hardy alters the meter to send a jolt into the familiar rhythmic scheme. Rather than conforming to the expected iambic trimeter, “The bleak twigs overhead” centers around a pair of consecutive stressed syllables in “bleak twigs.” This metrical jolt represents the startling arrival of the thrush.

"I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-grey,..."   (The Darkling Thrush)

The first couplet establishes the poem’s meter: an alternation between four-beat tetrameter and three-beat trimeter. This jaunty, song-like metrical scheme exists in tension with the poem’s winter atmosphere. The description of the frost as “spectre-grey” has a connotation of death, one of the poem’s central motifs. Hardy’s poem addresses the turn of the 20th century, viewing the rising tide of modernity with a sense of hopelessness.