Poetry Wednesday: Boreas Bites

Baby, it’s cold outside and I’ve been sneezing so hard I’m amazed I still have mucus membranes or windows.  I’m sure most of you Poetry Wednesday Lurkers—I know you’re out there, ’cause stats don’t lie*—already know how I feel about winter weather, but I haven’t run out of poems that express those feelings, so here are a few more.

You know, the more I read Shakespeare’s poetry, the more I admire the breadths and depths of his sarcasm. This is another one of his I like to growl through my teeth while stumping along in LL Bean waterproof shoes which aren’t laced quite high enough for the to keep the snow out of my socks, as the wind chill laughs through my wool coat.

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
(William Shakespeare)

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!
Winter--called it!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 remembered not.
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.

Of course, an Englishman can’t hold a parka to a Scot when it comes to a thorough understanding of winter weather.

I’m absolutely sure there’s a metaphor for hope in the darkness and life in death and the cycle of seasons or whatever, but I’m too busy shivering, so one of you Floridians or Australians or Central Americans or Singaporeans or Guamanians can do it, since you’re all so nice and warm.

You know, come to think of it, Even Glaswegians are warmer than we Midwestern Americans are right now—at least on the outside.  That’s just wrong.**

A Winter Night
(Robert Burns)

When biting Boreas, fell and doure,
Sharp shivers thro’ the leafless bow’r;
When Phoebus gies a short-liv’d glow’r,
Far south the lift,
Dim-dark’ning thro’ the flaky show’r,
Or whirling drift:

Ae night the storm the steeples rocked,Dust of Snow
Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked,
While burns, wi’ snawy wreeths upchoked,
Wild-eddying swirl,
Or thro’ the mining outlet bocked,
Down headlong hurl.

List’ning, the doors an’ winnocks rattle,
I thought me on the ourie cattle,
Or silly sheep, wha bide this brattle
O’ winter war,
And thro’ the drift, deep-lairing, sprattle,
Beneath a scar.

Ilk happing bird, wee, helpless thing!
That, in the merry months o’ spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o’ thee?
Whare wilt thou cow’r thy chittering wing
An’ close thy e’e?

Ev’n you on murd’ring errands toil’d,
Lone from your savage homes exil’d,
The blood-stain’d roost, and sheep-cote spoil’d
My heart forgets,
While pityless the tempest wild
Sore on you beats.

But it’s William Blake who really nails the worst parts of winter, like an ice pick through one’s sinuses—which is exactly how I felt through most of yesterday.  And yes, I know this poem isn’t really about winter, and that I’m making light of a brutal account of the whirlwind descent of sanity into irrevocable despair, but if we can’t misinterpret poems to suit our own immediate needs, then what the hell are they for?***

Mad Song
(William Blake)

The wild winds weep,
And the night is a-cold;
Come hither, Sleep,
And my griefs infold:
But lo! the morning peeps
Over the eastern steeps,Polar Vortex (Saturn)
And the rustling birds of dawn
The earth do scorn.

Lo! to the vault
Of paved heaven,
With sorrow fraught
My notes are driven:
They strike the ear of night,
Make weep the eyes of day;
They make mad the roaring winds,
And with tempests play.

Like a fiend in a cloud
With howling woe,
After night I do croud,
And with night will go;
I turn my back to the east,
From whence comforts have increas’d;
For light doth seize my brain
With frantic pain.

Keep warm and safe, everyone, and away from those rattling winnocks—you’ll put your e’e out.


*I can’t imagine there are fewer than five of you hitting refresh all day just to humor me—thanks for that, by the way.

**Hear that sound?  That’s the sound of patronizing laughter.  It appears to be coming from Canada . . . .

**The image isn’t from Earth, either, by the way, as Saturn apparently has more dramatic Polar Vortexes.  Who knew?