Darkling is a word that was initially used adverbially, modifying a verb, (e.g. leaving darkling, with the sense leaving in a dark sort of way); developing uses encompassed its use as an adjective (a darkling footpath), and as a noun. It may have moral reverberations - so that for example in Henry Porter's play Two Angry Women of Abingdon, it has the association with deeds which are 'shady'. Coleridge used it when he was talking about the Christian soul - (in Religious Musings, Christmas Eve, 1794.) Samuel Johnson could not find the verb, to darkle, and so was puzzled by the word, though later this verb did appear - initially in the English Dialect Dictionary (itself a kind of shadowy, darkling version of the Oxford English Dicionary) - where it meant roughly the opposite of to sparkle. The -ling ending is suggestive of a diminutive, and also of a process, a movement.
- Alphabetized by author
- Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
- Matthew Arnold, in "Dover Beach" (1867), St. 4
- Darkling I listen; and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death
- For, you trow, nuncle,
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it's had it head bit off by it young.
So, out went the candle, and we were left darkling.