David Yezzi


The Annotated Thrush

after “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
(by that it’s understood—
in Dorchester at any rate—
a “coppice” is a wood).
The tangled bine-stems (really vines;
think ivy) scored the sky
(like glass that’s etched with heavy lines
but also harmony?).

The Century’s corpse outleant
(that’s really just bare ground
compared here to a dying gent
who’s chosen to lie down).
The ancient pulse of birth and germ
(a germ is like a seed;
as for the more archaic term,
for pulse let’s say a need).

An aged thrush (not “oral yeast”!)
with plumes all blast-beruffled
(which is to say a wingèd beast
whose feathers are kerfuffled),
In a full-hearted evensong
(words echoing John Keats,
and thrown in where they don’t belong
to fill in missing beats).

It chose to fling its soul (we’re told)
Upon the growing gloom
(the flailing poet here makes bold
to prophesy our doom).
What “darkling” means, we have some clue
(although I couldn’t swear)
of the sense that Hardy knew
and I am unaware.

David Yezzi’s latest book of poetry is Black Sea (Carnegie Mellon). He teaches in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where he edits The Hopkins Review.