The daft hill plover

This is George Campbell Hay’s vivid description of an air-borne golden plover, which he observed in remote Wester Ross. If you’re really very lucky, you might see one in Wiltshire in winter.

The daft hill plover tumbles,

and cries his birling cry,

tumbles and climbs and tumbles,

daft in the wide hill-sky.

 

Alone with his hill-top daftness,

he runs himself a race,

The windy, daft hill plover,

daft with wind and space.

The Winter’s Spring

This is an extract from John Clare’s The Winter’s Spring.  It reminds me to make the best of every season, even winter, despite aching cold and biting winds.

The winter comes; I walk alone,

I want no bird to sing;

To those who keep their hearts their own

The winter is the spring.

No flowers to please – no bees to hum –

The coming spring’s already come.

 

I never want the grass to bloom:

The snowstorm’s best in white.

I love to see the tempest come

And love its piercing light.

The dazzled eyes that love to cling

O’er snow-white meadows sees the spring.

 

I love the snow, the crumpling snow

That hangs on everything,

It covers everything below

Like white dove’s brooding wing,

A landscape to the aching sight,

A vast expanse of dazzling light.

 

It is the foliage of the woods

That winters bring – the dress,

White Easter of the year in bud,

That makes the winter Spring.

The frost and snow his posies bring,

Nature’s white spurts of the spring.

For the Bed at Kelmscott

In William Morris’s room at Kelmscott Manor, the early 17th century carved oak bed has an embroidered valance and bed-hangings that were designed in 1891 by his daughter, May. This poem, written by Morris, is part of the embroidery. 

The wind’s on the wold
 and the night is a-cold,

And Thames runs chill
 twixt mead and hill,

But kind and dear is the old house here,

And my heart is warm
 midst winter’s harm.

Rest then and rest,
 and think of the best

Twixt summer and spring 
when all birds sing

In the town of the tree,
 as ye lie in me

And scarce dare move 
lest earth and its love

Should fade away
 ere the full of the day.

I am old and have seen 
many things that have been,

Both grief and peace,
 and wane and increase.

No tale I tell
 of ill or well,

But this I say,
 night treadeth on day,

And for worst and best,
 right good is rest.

A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour

I sing the birth was born tonight,

The Author both of life and light:

The angels so did sound it;

And like the ravished shepherds said,

Who saw the light and were afraid,

Yet searched, and true they found it.

 

The Son of God, th’eternal King,

That did us all salvation bring,

And freed the world from danger;

He whom the whole world could not take,

The Lord which heav’n and earth did make,

Was now laid in a manger.

 

The Father’s wisdom willed it so,

The Son’s obedience knew no “No,”

Both wills were in one stature;

And, as that wisdom had decreed,

The Word was now made flesh indeed,

And took on Him our nature.

 

What comfort by Him do we win,

Who made Himself the price of sin,

To make us heirs of glory!

To see this Babe, all innocence,

A Martyr born in our defence,

Can man forget this story?

 

Ben Jonson, [1573 – 1637] was first a bricklayer, and then a soldier in Flanders. He became an essayist, and one of the major dramatists and poets of the seventeenth century.

Written in November

Autumn, I love thy parting look to view

In cold November’s day, so bleak and bare,

When, thy life’s dwindled thread worn nearly thro’,

With ling’ring, pott’ring pace, and head bleach’d bare,

Thou, like an old man, bidd’st the world adieu.

I love thee well: and often, when a child,

Have roam’d the bare brown heath a flower to find;

And in the moss-clad vale, and wood-bank wild

Have cropt the little bell-flowers, pearly blue,

That trembling peep the shelt’ring bush behind.

When winnowing north-winds cold and bleaky blew,

How have I joy’d, with dithering hands, to find,

Each fading flower; and still how sweet the blast,

Would bleak November’s hour restore the joy that’s past.

John Clare

The holly bush a sober lump of green

John Clare’s Winter Walk offers us the hope of more than the passing of dark days.  It reminds us that we’re not alone in wishing winter gone, and that we have more in common than we like to think with those creatures with whom we share the Earth.

The holly bush a sober lump of green
Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown & grey
& smiles at winter be it e’er so keen
With all the leafy luxury of may
& o it is delicious when the day
In winters loaded garment keenly blows
& turns her back on sudden falling snows
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of ever green that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving snow
& in the bitterest day that ever blew
The walk will find some places still & warm
Where dead leaves rustle sweet & give alarm
To little birds that flirt & start away

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.