Patrick Hawes’ newsletter just dropped into my email box and a link to his site led me to this rendition of his The Darkling Thrush. It is such a beautiful and haunting song, I wanted to share it with you. The Darkling Thrush is a poem by Victorian/early 20th century English Romantic poet Thomas Hardy. Hardy is probably my favourite poet. I learnt this poem by heart and several others, including Afterwards, when I was 14 years old. I did a painting of The Darkling Thrush while at university. It was an awful painting. Nonetheless, something shifted, consciousness-wise. Come to think of it, it was probably the first time I connected with what I was doing. It was inspired by a watercolour by my then Professor, Norman Adams, a painting of a dead hare he’d found. He’d laid the hare on a white cloth and painted it like that. It seemed to connect with the line in Hardy’s poem: the Century’s corpse outleant (outleant = outstretched); he was describing the landscape, had personified it, given it features.
The song’s from Patrick’s album, Fair Albion, which I have and is full of songs celebrating England and its rich heritage. I’m going to try and get hold of the sheet music for the song so I can sing it. Well, I learnt the poem, I painted a picture of it and so I might as well sing the song!
Is the lovely tinkling piano that dances along behind the singer the bird’s song? Yes, but also something else. Hardy is telling the story, in the poem, of how he was leaning on a coppice gate, looking out over the land. It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s bleak. It’s like the end of the world. It is the end of the century. Then he hears this thrush singing. It’s An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small, … The song is so passionate. He describes it as a flinging of the soul and he can’t see what the thrush has to sing about. He imagines that the bird has some secret knowledge, of … Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware. And so I hear that tinkling piano not trying to suggest birdsong, it’s not just decoration, but it’s trying to describe the force that compels the song, the hope.
Enjoy! And when you’ve listened to this, head over to Patrick’s site and listen to his Track of the Month: Wildflower Meadow which is from his Highgrove Suite, which he composed for the birthday of HRH Prince Charles. The harpist is Claire Jones, Official Harpist to Prince Charles, 2007-2011.