“And the old deserted Year / Seems dying with the day”

With a tip of the biretta to the Laudator.

Thomas Caulfield Irwin (1823-1892), December:
It is bleak December noon,
Winter-wild and rainy grey:
By the old road thinly strewn
Drifts of dead leaves skirt the way:
Oh! the long canals and drear,
And the floods o’erflow the weir,
And the old deserted Year
Seems dying with the day.

By the banks the leafless larch
Shakes its boughs in dismal plight;
The blank bridge’s lonely arch
Marks the sullen sky with white:
Beyond the current flows
Through banks of misty snows,
And the wind the water blows,
Here and there, a little bright.

From the dim and silent hill
Looks the moon with face of care
O’er the sad fields, frosty still,
And the icy brooklet there;
And nooked beside the way
The hamlet children play,
Whispering weirdly in the grey
Of the dumb cold evening air.

W.H. Auden, ed., Nineteenth Century Minor British Poets (New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1966), gives the poet’s name as William Caulfield Irwin (pp. 10, 194, 366), but he seems to be mistaken.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gail F says:

    Well it’s nice, I guess, but Auden was no Al Gore. Now THAT’S poetry.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    A Carol

    Our Lord Who did the Ox command
    To kneel to Judah’s King,
    He binds His frost upon the land
    To ripen it for Spring —
    To ripen it for Spring, good sirs,
    According to His Word.
    Which well must be as ye can see —
    And who shall judge the Lord?

    When we poor fenmen skate the ice
    Or shiver on the wold,
    We hear the cry of a single tree
    That breaks her heart in the cold —
    That breaks her heart in the cold, good sirs,
    And rendeth by the board.
    Which well must be as ye can see —
    And who shall judge the Lord?

    Her wood is crazed and little worth
    Excepting as to burn,
    That we may warm and make our mirth
    Until the Spring return —
    Until the Spring return, good sirs,
    When Christians walk abroad;
    When well must be as ye can see —
    And who shall judge the Lord?

    God bless the master of this house,
    And all who sleep therein!
    And guard the fens from pirate folk,
    And keep us all from sin,
    To walk in honesty, good sirs,
    Of thought and deed and word!
    Which shall befriend our latter end….
    And who shall judge the Lord?

    – Rudyard Kipling,
    “The Tree of Justice” — REWARDS AND FAIRIES

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for the poetry. The verses made this dreary, cold, and damp day more bearable. Here is one of my favorite winter references, albeit, not poetry.

    Antisthenes says that in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer.”
    – Plutarch, Moralia

  4. digdigby says:

    Thanks, Father Z. I’m no longer a book dealer but when I went to http://www.addall.com and checked under used books and found that there were only THREE copies of the Auden Anthology in the entire WORLD for sale and that one of them was $4 and the next one was $20, I bought myself this little delight with a clear conscience.

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thanks for so vivid and (to my feeling still ‘true to life’) evocation of such a scene!

    The Kipling and Plutarch were also thoroughly enjoyable!

  6. Maltese says:

    Gerard Manly Hopkins

    Winter with the Gulf Stream
    The boughs, the boughs are bare enough
    But earth has never felt the snow.
    Frost-furred our ivies are and rough

    With bills of rime the brambles shew.
    The hoarse leaves crawl on hissing ground
    Because the sighing wind is low.

    But if the rain-blasts be unbound
    And from dank feathers wring the drops
    The clogged brook runs with choking sound

    Kneading the mounded mire that stops
    His channel under clammy coats
    Of foliage fallen in the copse.

    A simple passage of weak notes
    Is all the winter bird dare try.
    The bugle moon by daylight floats

    So glassy white about the sky,
    So like a berg of hyaline,
    And pencilled blue so daintily

    I never saw her so divine.
    But through black branches, rarely drest
    In scarves of silky shot and shine,

    The webbed and the watery west
    Where yonder crimson fireball sits
    Looks laid for feasting and for rest.

    I see long reefs of violets
    In beryl-covered fens so dim,
    A gold-water Pactolus frets

    Its brindled wharves and yellow brim,
    The waxen colours weep and run,
    And slendering to his burning rim

    Into the flat blue mist the sun
    Drops out and all our day is done.

  7. Maltese says:

    I must add just this one caveat about Gerard Manley Hopkins, a sensitive Jesuit: first, I think he is the most brilliant Poet, Catholic or otherwise we’ve seen since Shakespeare; second, he is published posthumously; none of his works made him at all famous, or, even recognized while he was alive; third, he (like Shakespeare and James Joyce) is quite hard to read. But if you slow-down, and draw his words out, and, occasionally, look them up; he can be the most rewarding of late-nineteenth century poets, whether Catholic or not.

    Here is an inexplicably beautiful book within a book written of Hopkins, who was writing about the sinking of the Deutschland (in poetic form), and the Nuns who perished in that disaster, and the overall story is written by a Catholic writer, Ron Hansen, in prose (the overall result is wonderful): HERE.

    I breezed through this book in three days, a rarity for me.

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