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
Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894)
In the bleak mid winter – well, I suppose if you take the winter months as December through to February we are mid way now. This is the first verse of the poem that most know as a Christmas carol but the poet didn’t write it with that in mind. I think this reminds us of how hard winters once were and how difficult life could be. For some it was their very survival that was in jeopardy.
I remember the winter of 1962/63 well when the temperature remained below freezing for weeks on end. We had no heating other than a coal fire in the main room and a paraffin heater that smelt more than it gave out warmth. Getting up in the morning was a trial as it was so cold in the bedroom but once you were in the bathroom the little electric wall heater took the chill off the room. At least by then we had an indoor toilet though winters didn’t seem so cold in London. The Wimbledon house was an old Victorian terrace whereas the house we moved to was brand new and still drying out I think. We were very poor and there wasn’t much money for extras which meant I trudged through the snow to school in shoes as boots were too expensive.
I love the winter now as I can choose to go out or spend the day indoors. I had hoped the winters up here would be frosty at the least and preferably snowy but this year all we have had is incessant rain and the temperatures have been mild. Luckily we were not affected by the floods but many locally were and it was all rather unsettling.
Years ago no-one traveled anywhere in the winter time as the roads were either a quagmire or rutted with the cold. People watched their dwindling food supplies and prayed they would last until the first new crops. Few vegetables could be harvested in the winter as the old varieties didn’t stand up to the cold in the way they do now.
I’m not sure why I have started this – I don’t intend to write daily or to share it with anyone. I can’t write a normal diary as my hands won’t hold a pen properly anymore and even I can’t read my writing. I will finish with another lovely winter poem.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)