I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
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.
I came across this poem whilst reflecting on the changing of the year and decade, on Heather’s blog about being in limbo and my recent experience of keeping vigil for a dear friend at the end of his life. The news is full of gloomy reports on climate change, politics and countries threatening each other.
Just as the stark winter landscape is penetrated by the sound of joy from the thrush’s song in the bleakness, so may we remember to hold joy alongside our dark times. According to Rick Hanson, taking in the good is a popular practice for helping us allow joy to sit side by side with any doubt, sadness or difficulty. Savouring a joyful or happy moment, even if it is as tiny as the sound of birdsong, makes a little difference on each occasion and gradually increases the presence of positive experience into our whole being.
I wish you much joy for the coming year.