This essay follows several changes in the dating of “The Darkling Thrush” to ask what the number 1900 might have meant to Thomas Hardy. Although Hardy did not make many edits to the poem itself, he did change the way that it was dated at every opportunity: in manuscript, the date appears as “The Century’s End 1899 1900”; in the periodical the Graphic, it is implicitly the issue’s date of publication, December 29, 1900; in Poems of the Past and the Present (1901), it is “December 1900”; and, finally, in The Collected Poems (1919), it takes its canonical form, “31 December 1900.” This essay explores several related problems: the almost occult significance of the publication date 1900; the surprising relevance of calendar debates to “The Darkling Thrush” and other texts, a crisis of temporality characteristic of late Victorian poetry and poetics; and the way that extrinsic historical context becomes the intrinsic stuff of literary meaning.

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