Poetry is under-represented on this blog and in my reading generally, and I thought to address that by buying the doorstop-sized The 20th Century in Poetry edited by Michael Hulse and Simon Rae, an anthology which presents - in chronological order - over 400 poems written in many parts of the English-speaking world during the twentieth century. "From war to peace, from industry to strikes, from artisans to technology, here is history seen as never before, through the poets' eyes."
"Our aim has been to allow the poems to tell the stories of the century, both public and private," say the editors, "...[and] to offer pleasures, both simple and complex ...". I'm going to be working my way through, perhaps reading just a poem a day, but taking my time.
The book begins, of course, in 1900 with 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.
There is a commentary on the poem here.