I am writing this in the cold clime in which I was born, visiting relatives for Thanksgiving. Yesterday, the temperature dropped about 25 degrees in the space of 12 hours or so. Borne on an icy wind, snow arrived in the evening.
This morning, a childhood of winters came rushing back. "The snows of yesteryear" and all that. Not in minute detail, but in the form of emotion. The sort of emotion that sank down into your bones decades ago, without your knowing it. Now, here it is again, all of it.
November Evenings! Damp and still
They used to cloak Leckhampton hill,
And lie down close on the grey plain,
And dim the dripping window-pane,
And send queer winds like Harlequins
That seized our elms for violins
And struck a note so sharp and low
Even a child could feel the woe.
Now fire chased shadow round the room;
Tables and chairs grew vast in gloom:
We crept about like mice, while Nurse
Sat mending, solemn as a hearse,
And even our unlearned eyes
Half closed with choking memories.
Is it the mist or the dead leaves,
Or the dead men -- November eves?
James Elroy Flecker, The Old Ships (1917).
The fairy tale feeling of Flecker's poem is reminiscent of a poem by Louis MacNeice.
'What is it that goes round and round the house'
The riddle began. A wolf, we thought, or a ghost?
Our cold backs turned to the chink in the kitchen shutter,
The range made our small scared faces warm as toast.
But now the cook is dead and the cooking, no doubt, electric,
No room for draught or dream, for child or mouse,
Though we, in another place, still put ourselves the question:
What is it that goes round and round the house?
Louis MacNeice, Solstices (1961).
"Tombstones, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Hinton-in-the-Hedges (1940)