Winter’s underway

Post 29/2022 Monday 21 November . . . Winter showed up on the calendar today. Winter clothes the landscape, paints the sky, stirs the mind. It’s fresh, cold, snowy, although some people wrestle with winter woes. I’m okay with winter, though not enamored with it. If I were a skier, a sledder, a snowshoe aficionado, a snowmobile enthusiast, I’d be less averse to winter, but I can take it in stride.

On this first day of a winter, I’ll indulge in quotes related to various aspects of the season. I’ve turned to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Third Edition (Oxford University Press, 1979, 1980) for quotes from voices past, adding a few asides.

Health

Arnold Bennett, English novelist, short story writer and playwright (1867-1931): “’Ye can call it influenza if ye like,’ said Mrs Machin. ‘There was no influenza in my young days. We called a cold a cold.’”

Warming memory

A.E. Houseman, English classical scholar and poet, (1859-1936):” The night is freezing fast / Tomorrow comes December; / And winterfalls of old / Are with me from the past; /And chiefly I remember / How Dick would hate the cold.

“Fall, winter, fall; for he, / Prompt hand and headpiece clever, / Has woven a winter’s robe, / And made of earth and sea / His overcoat for ever, / And wears the turning globe.”

Mid-winter long ago

Christina Rossetti, English writer of romantic, devotional and children’s poems, including the Christmas carol, In the Bleak Midwinter, (December 5, 1830-December 29, 1894):

“In the bleak mid-winter / Frosty wind made moan, / Earth stood hard as iron, / Water like a stone; / Snow had fallen, snow on snow, / Snow on snow, / In the bleak mid-winter, / Long ago.”

The second of five stanzas: “Our God, heaven cannot hold Him / Nor earth sustain, / Heaven and earth shall flee away / When He comes to reign: / In the bleak mid-winter / A stable-place sufficed / The Lord God Almighty — / Jesus Christ.”

I love the carol. Stillness. Promise. Manna for the mind.

All seasons underfoot

Dilys Bennett Laing, poet, born in Wales 1906, became a US citizen 1941. Died in Norwich, Vermont in 1960. This is a poem I remember, especially the part, “squeaked like leather,” from my elementary school days. Underfoot has “never been the same.”

I walked on a snow-bank that squeaked like leather,

Or two wooden spoons that you rub together

I walked on green moss and brown earth, sprouting

With little grass blades on their first spring outing.

I walked on blossoms and cool, green cresses,

And grass that rustled like silken dresses.

I walked on bracken, and dry leaves after,

That flamed with color and crackled with laughter.

I walked on the earth as the seasons came,

And under my feet it was never the same!

Seasoned words from William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

From Richard III: “In winter’s tedious nights sit by the fire / With good old folks and let them tell thee tales / Of woeful ages, long ago betid; / And ere thou bid good night, to quit their grief, / Tell thou the lamentable tale of me, / And send the hearers weeping to their beds.”

Oh my, King Richard, I’ve tears enough for the day; spare me them in the night.

As You Like It: “Hath not old custom made this life more sweet / Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court? / Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, / The season’s difference; as, the icy fang / And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, / Which, when it bites and blows my body, / Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say, / ‘This is no flattery.’”

One more, As You Like It: “Therefore my age is as a lusty winter, / Frosty, but kindly.”

Savoring a full life

Hilaire Belloc, Franco-English writer and historian, (1870-1953): “If I ever become a rich man, / Or if ever I grow to be old, / I will build a house with deep thatch / To shelter me from the cold, / And there shall the Sussex songs be sung / And the story of Sussex told. / I will hold my house in the high wood / Within a walk of the sea, / And the men that were boys when I was a boy / Shall sit and drink with me.”

Now that I am no longer young, neither rich enough to afford a deep thatch roof, nor hail from gladsome Sussex, I am fortunate enough to gather with some lads of my youth, though that number dwindles, and many reside far away. Thank God for new friends added to the old.

Stark reality

There’s a strange disease of modern life that wants to replace goodwill, cooperation, negotiation, debate, warmheartedness, the commonweal with ‘me and only me.” Self-absorption. I may be quoting Edmund Burke out of context, but his sentiments can be applied to many contexts today.  

Burke, Irish-British statesman, economist, philosopher, (1729-1797): “This barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings.”

Burke: “Politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity.”

Assurance

Genesis 8:22: As long as the earth endures, / seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, / summer and winter, day and night, / shall not cease.”

1662 Book of Common Prayer: “O ye Dews, and Frosts, bless ye the Lord: praise him, and magnify him for ever. / O ye Frost and Cold, bless ye the Lord: praise him and magnify him for ever. / O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord: praise him and magnify him for ever. / O ye Nights, and Days, bless ye the Lord: praise him, and magnify him for ever.””

May winter find you patient, filled with good things, healthy, engaged, happy, renewed. And, as may be your wont, with all creation praising and magnifying the Lord forever.

-John

2 thoughts on “Winter’s underway

  1. Winter came to Canada too. Mom always said November is a pause, a reflection month and then nearing the end of December things get brighter. The last winter of Dad’s life he found joy in seeing the cardinals at the bird feeder surrounded by fresh snow. The song you mentioned, In the bleak midwinter… I can hear this sung at Cassel in my mind. I also recall it was a favourite carol of Katie (Vernon) Zehr. Funny the things you remember!
    Kaye

    Like

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