Suplementary Poems for
"Delight & Wisdom" essay

Guidance notes to get you thinking.

The Selfsame Song

A bird sings the selfsame song
With never a fault in its flow,
That we listened to here those long
Long years ago.

Which words in this verse show that Hardy admires the song he is hearing?

A pleasing marvel is how
A strain of such rapturous rote
Should have gone on thus till now
Unchanged in a note!

Which two adjectives in this verse add to this positive impression?
What is it that Hardy is so amazed by in this song?

-But it's not the selfsame bird.-
No: perished to dust is he...
As also are those who heard
That song with me.

What does Hardy now realise:

  • about the bird?
  • about his friends?

What is the message of this poem?

Would you call it wisdom?

Thomas Hardy

Self - Pity

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.


  • Can you find any delight in this poem?
  • What do you think is the message of the poem, and who is it aimed at?
  • Would you call it wisdom?

A Living

A man should never earn his living,
if he earns his life he'll be lovely.

A bird
picks up its seeds or little snails
between heedless earth and heaven
in heedlessness.

But, the plucky little sport, it gives to life
song, and chirruping, gay feathers, fluff shadowed warmth
and all the unspeakable charm of birds hopping
and fluttering and being birds.
- And we, we get it all from them for nothing.


This is a strange one!

  • First identify any words or ideas which suggest to you that Lawrence finds delight in the birds. What is it he feels they give to the world, in order to earn their place in it?
  • In what way is he suggesting that people should be more like birds?
  • The wisdom of the poem is contained in the first two lines. What do you think Lawrence means by this rather challenging opening statement?
  • How does this poem relate to Frost's theory that a poem should "begin in delight and end in wisdom?"