While this poem was dated by Hardy, on December 31, 1900, I think it serves equally well for a poem set on the Winter's Solstice, the shortest day of the year, when Night has achieved its greatest victory over Day and it seems as though the days of the sun and warmth shall never return.
Yet, as the Taoists tell us, when any particular condition (day/night, wet/dry, cold/hot) has gained its greatest extent, its eventual defeat is embedded within that victory. For while December 21, 2009, may be the shortest day of the year, December 22 shows us that all is not lost, for we are now moving towards the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
…..When Frost was spectre-gray,
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 fervorless 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.
-- Thomas Hardy --