A Blackbird Singing

A Blackbird Singing

By R. S. Thomas

It seems wrong that out of this bird,
Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
Places about it, there yet should come
Such rich music, as though the notes’
Ore were changed to a rare metal
At one touch of that bright bill.

You have heard it often, alone at your desk
In a green April, your mind drawn
Away from its work by sweet disturbance
Of the mild evening outside your room.

A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history’s overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.

Summary of A Blackbird Singing

  • Popularity of “A Blackbird Singing”: The poem “A Blackbird Singing by Ronald Stuart Thomas, a Welsh poet and writer, is a remarkable poetic piece published back in 1946. The poem speaks about the pains and tragedies black people faced in the past. Although the world has changed a lot, yet their tragic past never fades away. The realistic depiction of the bird, their connection with black people, and the latent irony make this poetic piece worth reading.
  • A Blackbird Singing” As a Representative of Sorrow: This metaphorical poem deals with the subject of colonization and its impact on the African American community. It begins as the speaker talks about a bold blackbird that inspires him with its melody. This bird reminds him of the dark places known to the world. It seems that his old musical notes are revived with a touch of modernism. He further says that his sweet, yet sad melody is not new to the world. He hopes that his melody might have caught the attention of the busy world. Surprisingly, the world has changed dramatically, but this slow singer never forgets to keep it reminding of the tragic histories. Keeping himself aligned with the demands of the modern world, he continues loading his phrases with precious emotions his tribe once possessed. He wants the world to remember their miserable plight. Therefore, his song is representing the old tales with a touch of fresh tears.
  • Major Themes in “A Blackbird Singing”: Sufferings of the African American community, history, and modernism are the major themes of the poem. Using the blackbird as a metaphor for the Africans, the speaker highlights how those people have suffered in the past. Although they faced injustice, prejudice, and cultural differences ages ago, yet their memories are afresh even today. Everyone knows what happened to them in the past, yet no one bothers to understand them in a true sense. The bird, thus, tries to present their gloomy history to the world, following the taste and interest of the people, but it seems that his efforts bear no fruit.

 Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “A Blackbird Singing”

literary devices are tools the writers use to give deeper meanings to their poetic efforts. R. S. Thomas has also used some literary devices whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “You have heard it often, alone at your desk” and the sound of /e/ in “A slow singer but loading each phrase.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /b/ in “Black, bold,” and /th/ sound in “though the notes’.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ in “And grief learned by his dark tribe” and the sound of /s/ in “Such rich music, as though the notes’.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. R S Thomas has used imagery in this poem such as, “You have heard it often, alone at your desk”, “In a green April, your mind drawn” and “Of the mild evening outside your room.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. The poet has used the little bird as an extended metaphor to show how even after ages Black people mourns the tragedies they faced in the past.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified personifies the black bird throughout the poem such as; “A slow singer, but loading each phrase” and “And grief learned by his dark tribe.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The singing of the bird symbolizes the sufferings and pains Africans have endured in the past.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “A Blackbird Singing”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or metrical pattern.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here only the second stanza is quatrain.
  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem with each comprising different number of verses.
  2. Sestet: A sestet is a six-lined stanza borrowed from Italian poetry. Here, the first and last stanzas are sestets.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “A Blackbird Singing” are useful to use in lectures or speeches when presenting the heart-wrenching experiences of the African American community.

“A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history’s overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.”