Frost at Midnight

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind.  The owlet’s cry
Came loud – and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness.  Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village!  Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.

This is the beginning of Coleridge’s Soliloquy to his sleeping child.  It ends:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

This time last year we had no idea of the cold spring that was to come.  It proved to be the longest, coldest spring that many of us could remember, and we were fearful of the consequences for gardens and harvests alike that; mercifully, such fears came to naught.  So, what will 2014 bring?  Will it be a long, wild and wet spring, perhaps – or something sharper, like the quiet, calm frosts in this poem.  I, for one, am hoping so.

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