Two Poems for Two Solstices

In the Northern Hemisphere, our Solstice is a celebration of beginning the turn of the long dark nights toward brighter days, a renewal of hope as one year nears its end and we await the promise of the year to come.

In the Southern Hemisphere, this Solstice is a celebration of the long days of summer, which brighten spirits even in times of uncertainty.

To read Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush” and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “In Summer” click:

The Darkling Thrush

by Thomas Hardy

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.

“The Darkling Thrush,” from The Complete Poems by Thomas Hardy (Macmillan, 1976)

 Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), renowned English novelist and poet, was born in the village of Higher Bockhampton in the county of Dorset. Best known for his novels: Far from the Madding Crowd; Tess of the d’Urbervilles; The Return of the Native; and Jude the Obscure. When Hardy died, his ashes were enshrined in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, but his heart was buried with his family.


In Summer

by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air’s soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer’s boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another’s ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art;
‘T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.

“In Summer” from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1913 edition)

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) born in Dayton Ohio, the son of freed slaves; one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition. When he moved to Chicago in 1893, he became friends with Frederick Douglass, who helped him find a job as a clerk, and arranged a public reading for Dunbar to present his poems. Within two years, his poems were appearing in national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times. After a reading tour of England in 1897, he received a clerkship at the Library of Congress, but by 1898, he was suffering from tuberculosis, and resigned his position to concentrate on writing and giving readings. Dunbar died at age 33 in February 1906.


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Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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