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January 15, 2013

Winter in Verse

Snowfield, Byrdstown, TN. Photo by Serena Matthews.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Act II, Scene 7 from As You Like It

William Shakespeare (1600)

Blow, blow, thou winter wind.

Thou art not so unkind

As man’s ingratitude;

Thy tooth is not so keen,

Because thou art not seen,

Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:

Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:

Then, heigh-ho, the holly!

This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,

That dost not bite so nigh

As benefits forgot:

Though thou the waters warp,

Thy sting is not so sharp

As friend remember’d not.

Heigh-ho! sing, &c.

Disney animation and Bing Crosby singing ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ What could be better?


Sonnet 97

William Shakespeare (1609)

How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December’s bareness every where!

And yet this time removed was summer’s time,

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,

Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me

But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And, thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

In drear-nighted December

John Keats (1829)

In drear-nighted December,

   Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

   Their green felicity:

The north cannot undo them

With a sleety whistle through them;

Nor frozen thawings glue them

   From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,

   Too happy, happy brook,

Thy bubblings ne’er remember

   Apollo’s summer look;

But with a sweet forgetting,

They stay their crystal fretting,

Never, never petting

   About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’twere so with many

   A gentle girl and boy!

But were there ever any

   Writhed not at passed joy?

The feel of not to feel it,

When there is none to heal it

Nor numbed sense to steel it,

   Was never said in rhyme.


Mickey Mouse in ‘On Ice’ (1935), directed by Ben Sharpsteen; Mickey’s voice is by Walt Disney, Donald Duck’s by Clarence Nash, Goofy’s by Pinto Colvig and Minnie’s by Marcellite Garner.


An Old Man’s Winter Night

Robert Frost (from Mountain Interval, 1920)

All out of doors looked darkly in at him

Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,

That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.

What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze

Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.

What kept him from remembering what it was

That brought him to that creaking room was age.

He stood with barrels round him—at a loss.

And having scared the cellar under him

In clomping there, he scared it once again

In clomping off;—and scared the outer night,

Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar

Of trees and crack of branches, common things,

But nothing so like beating on a box.

A light he was to no one but himself

Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,

A quiet light, and then not even that.

He consigned to the moon, such as she was,

So late-arising, to the broken moon

As better than the sun in any case

For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,

His icicles along the wall to keep;

And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt

Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,

And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.

One aged man—one man—can’t fill a house,

A farm, a countryside, or if he can,

It’s thus he does it of a winter night.

Now Winter Nights Enlarge

Thomas Campion (1617)

Now winter nights enlarge

The number of their hours,

And clouds their storms discharge

Upon the airy towers.

Let now the chimneys blaze,

And cups o’erflow with wine;

Let well-tuned words amaze

With harmony divine.

Now yellow waxen lights

Shall wait on honey love,

While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights

Sleep’s leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense

With lovers’ long discourse;

Much speech hath some defence,

Though beauty no remorse.

All do not all things well;

Some measures comely tread,

Some knotted riddles tell,

Some poems smoothly read.

The summer hath his joys

And winter his delights;

Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,

They shorten tedious nights.

‘Impulsive? No, I’m repulsive.’: Woody Woodpecker, ‘Ski for Two’ (1944), directed by James Culhane, produced by Walter Lantz. Check out Woody’s vocal prowess as he sings ‘The Sleight (a la Russe),’ by Ivor Tchervanow and Richard Kountz as he skis down to the Swiss Chard Lodge.


Winter: A Dirge

Robert Burns (1781)

The wintry west extends his blast,

  And hail and rain does blaw;

Or the stormy north sends driving forth

  The blinding sleet and snaw:

While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,

  And roars frae bank to brae;

And bird and beast in covert rest,

  And pass the heartless day.

“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”

  The joyless winter day

Let others fear, to me more dear

  Than all the pride of May:

The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,

  My griefs it seems to join;

The leafless trees my fancy please,

  Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme

  These woes of mine fulfil,

Here firm I rest; they must be best,

  Because they are Thy will!

Then all I want—O do Thou grant

  This one request of mine!—

Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,

  Assist me to resign.


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