Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Crying Of Water"

I'd like to stay with the sounds of the sea for a moment longer.  John Freeman's "The Hounds," which appeared in my previous post, is a fairly austere poem.  Austere, but still deeply felt.  Freeman was one of the early-20th century Georgian poets.  Although the verse of the Georgian poets may seem "traditional" (in subject matter and language) to "modern" tastes, the Georgians were themselves reacting against what they saw as the fripperies of "traditional" Victorian poetry.

They were also suspicious of the excesses of the Decadent poets of the Nineties.  Absinthe and all that.  As I have indicated on more than one occasion, I have a soft spot for the Nineties poets, whatever their excesses. This is simply a matter of mood.

The following poem by Arthur Symons -- a Decadent -- is higher-strung than "The Hounds."  The recurrent "woe-is-me" emotional tenor of the Nineties poets is definitely in evidence.  It is certainly a different sort of poem from "The Hounds," but it has its own appeal.  The sea haunts in many different fashions.

Johan Christian Dahl, "Krinborg Castle by Moonlight" (c. 1849)

                   The Crying of Water

O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand,
All night long crying with a mournful cry,
As I lie and listen, and cannot understand
The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea,
O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I?
All night long the water is crying to me.

Unresting water, there shall never be rest
Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail,
And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west;
And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea,
All life long crying without avail,
As the water all night long is crying to me.

Arthur Symons, The Loom of Dreams (1901).

Johan Christian Dahl, "View from Vaekero near Christiania" (1827)

In fact, Symons could operate at a less emotionally-intense level when he wanted to.  I suspect that it depended upon whether he was in the throes of a romantic and/or religious crisis.

               Sea Twilight

The sea, a pale blue crystal cup,
With pale water was brimmed up;
And there was seen, on either hand,
Liquid sky and shadowy sand.

The loud and bright and burning day,
Charred to ashes, ebbed away;
The listening twilight only heard
Water whispering one word.

Arthur Symons, The Fool of the World and Other Poems (1906).

Johan Christian Dahl, "Copenhagen Harbor by Moonlight" (1846)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Telling His Loneliness To The Solitary Stars"

The closing lines of John Masefield's "The Dead Knight" -- "The mournful word the seas say/When tides are wandering out or in" -- brought to mind a lovely poem by John Freeman (1880-1929).  I recently spouted off to the effect that "it is the poem that matters, not the poet."  In retrospect, this sounds too highfalutin', but my point is this:  a large number of fine poems tend to be overlooked simply because they were not written by well-known poets.

As long-time (and much-appreciated!) readers of this blog may have noticed, I am determined (in my tiny way) to save some of these poems (and the poets who wrote them) from oblivion.  I harbor no illusions about what I am up against -- the news of the world, and all the other deafening noise out there -- but I am stubborn.

Christopher Nevinson (1889-1946), "The Old Harbour"

                    The Hounds

Far off a lonely hound
Telling his loneliness all round
To the dark woods, dark hills, and darker sea;

And, answering, the sound
Of that yet lonelier sea-hound
Telling his loneliness to the solitary stars.

Hearing, the kennelled hound
Some neighbourhood and comfort found,
And slept beneath the comfortless high stars.

But that wild sea-hound
Unkennelled, called all night all round --
The unneighboured and uncomforted cold sea.

John Freeman, Stone Trees and Other Poems (1916).

Perhaps I am deluded, but I would stack this small poem up against any number of poems written by "major" poets.  I loved this poem the first time that I read it, and it has stayed with me ever since.  Is it the simple, recurring rhymes?  (Which seem to mimic the cries of the hounds and the sway of the sea.)  Is it the repetition of certain words?  Or is it the lonely middle-of-the-night feeling that all of us know too well?  (If I am not being presumptuous.)

Best to leave it alone.

Dane Maw (1908-1989), "Scottish Landscape, Air Dubh"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Two Dead Knights: "The Mournful Word The Seas Say When Tides Are Wandering Out Or In"

My previous post on John Masefield got me to thinking about another poem by him.  The poem may seem anachronistic to some.  After all, who writes (or reads) poems about knights any more?  In fact, the poem may have been viewed as anachronistic even in 1902, when it was originally published.

Ah, but I consider most anachronisms to be virtues, not vices.

James Cowie (1886-1956), "A Door in the Woods"

               The Dead Knight

The cleanly rush of the mountain air,
And the mumbling, grumbling humble-bees,
Are the only things that wander there.
The pitiful bones are laid at ease,
The grass has grown in his tangled hair,
And a rambling bramble binds his knees.

To shrieve his soul from the pangs of hell,
The only requiem-bells that rang
Were the hare-bell and the heather-bell.
Hushed he is with the holy spell
In the gentle hymn the wind sang,
And he lies quiet, and sleeps well.

He is bleached and blanched with the summer sun;
The misty rain and the cold dew
Have altered him from the kingly one
(That his lady loved, and his men knew)
And dwindled him to a skeleton.

The vetches have twined about his bones,
The straggling ivy twists and creeps
In his eye-sockets; the nettle keeps
Vigil about him while he sleeps.
Over his body the wind moans
With a dreary tune throughout the day,
In a chorus wistful, eerie, thin
As the gull's cry -- as the cry in the bay,
The mournful word the seas say
When tides are wandering out or in.

John Masefield, Salt-Water Ballads (1902).

I think that these are particularly nice:  "The only requiem-bells that rang/Were the hare-bell and the heather-bell;" "In the gentle hymn the wind sang;" "And he lies quiet, and sleeps well;" "The vetches have twined about his bones;" "The mournful word the seas say/When tides are wandering out or in."

Allin Braund, "Copse Path" (1940)

But Masefield was not the only person writing poetry about knights (or the skeletons of knights) at the beginning of the 20th century.

            The Skeleton

Chattering finch and water-fly
Are not merrier than I;
Here among the flowers I lie
Laughing everlastingly.
No:  I may not tell the best;
Surely, friends, I might have guessed
Death was but the good King's jest,
     It was hid so carefully.

G. K. Chesterton, The Wild Knight and Other Poems (1900).

For another lovely poem about a knight, I recommend John Leicester Warren's "The Knight in the Wood," which I have posted here previously.

George Allsopp, "Wharfdale Landscape" (c. 1960)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Four-Line Poems, Part Two: "So I Trust, Too"

The early life of John Masefield sounds like something out of a novel by Charles Dickens.  He was born in 1878 in Herefordshire, where his father was a successful solicitor.  However, his mother died when he was six, and his father died when he was thirteen.  He was placed in the care of an aunt and uncle, who decided that he should immediately leave school and join the Merchant Navy.

After suffering bouts of seasickness and sunstroke, as well as a nervous breakdown, he deserted his ship in New York in 1895.  In America, he lived as a vagrant for a time, but then found work in a tavern and, later, in a carpet factory.  He returned to England in 1897.

He went to work as a bank clerk, but then decided to become a poet.  His life at sea provided him with the poems that were collected in Salt-Water Ballads (1902), the book that established his reputation.  The rest is, as they say, history:  he was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930, and served in that position until his death in 1967.

His work is now neglected, which is unfortunate.  Yet, a four-line poem by him continues to find its way into anthologies.

Eric Hesketh Hubbard (1892-1957), "The Cuckmere Valley, East Sussex"

                       An Epilogue

I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces,
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust, too.

John Masefield, Poems (1946).

I suspect that "An Epilogue" is too non-ironic for "modern" sensibilities (such as they are).  No surprise there.  It has its source in deeply-felt, non-ironic experience, which always seems to puzzle and befuddle "moderns." The following poem provides a hint of that experience.


Tramping at night in the cold and wet, I passed the lighted inn,
And an old tune, a sweet tune, was being played within.
It was full of the laugh of the leaves and the song the wind sings;
It brought the tears and the choked throat, and a catch to the heart-strings.

And it brought a bitter thought of the days that now were dead to me,
The merry days in the old home before I went to sea --
Days that were dead to me indeed.  I bowed my head to the rain,
And I passed by the lighted inn to the lonely roads again.

John Masefield, Salt-Water Ballads (1902).

George Mackley (1900-1983), "Brackie's Burn, Northumberland"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"The Soul's Progress" Revisited

Some might think that Arthur Symons's "The Soul's Progress" (which appeared in my previous post) presents a too-bleak view of our time on earth.  To wit:  "Blindly it treads dim ways that wind and twist" and so on. But, like most everything else (I'm afraid), it all depends on how you look at it.

For instance, Japanese poets have been writing about Existence for centuries, and they share Symons's view that we enter this world from a mist and depart into a mist.  But, the way they go about it, what sounds like a catalogue of horrors in an English sonnet sounds like a lovely walk in the park in a Japanese poem (filtered through Buddhism, with Taoism in the background).

Gilbert Spencer, "The Cottage Window"

     To what
Shall I compare the world?
     It is like the wake
Vanishing behind a boat
     that has rowed away at dawn.

Sami Manzei (8th century) (translated by Edward Cranston), A Waka Anthology, Volume 1: The Gem-Glistening Cup (Stanford University Press 1993).

Like dew that vanishes,
like a phantom that disappears,
or the light cast
     by a flash of lightning --
so should one think of oneself.

Ikkyu (1394-1481) (translated by Steven Carter), Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991).

     A temporary lodging
on this side of the road all
     must go, in the end.

To recover the time he rested,
The traveller hastens on.

Shinkei (1406-1475) (translated by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen), Heart's Flower: The Life and Poetry of Shinkei (Stanford University Press 1994).

Bertha Ridley Bell
"Interior of a Cottage at Brockhampton" (c. 1950)

"Like the wake vanishing behind a boat that has rowed away at dawn." "Like dew that vanishes . . . or the light cast by a flash of lightning."  "The traveller hastens on."  A far cry from a soul that "staggers out into eternity," isn't it?

For the Japanese poets, this is simply the way that it is, and there is no need to bemoan that fact.  Thus, even as they describe the evanescence and the transience of our life, they do so in words that show their acute awareness of, and appreciation for, the beauty that surrounds us.  I recently quoted this line from Wallace Stevens, and it once again seems apt:  "Death is the mother of beauty, mystical."

Charles Ginner
"Through a Cottage Window, Shipley, Sussex"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter Into Spring, Part Four: "Winter In Spring"

As I have mentioned before, I am fond of the poets of the 1890s.  When it comes to describing the natural world, they tend to insert themselves -- and their dream-laden, death-haunted melancholy -- into that world.  Which is fine with me.  A little bit of dream-laden, death-haunted melancholy is good for the soul from time to time.

James McIntosh Patrick, "Winter in Angus" (1935)

                  Winter in Spring

Winter is over, and the ache of the year
Quieted into rest;
The torn boughs heal, and the time of the leaf is near,
And the time of the nest.

The poor man shivers less by his little hearth,
He will warm his hands in the sun;
He thinks there may be friendliness in the earth
Now the winter is done.

Winter is over, I see the gentle and strange
And irresistible spring:
Where is it I carry winter, that I feel no change
In anything?

Arthur Symons, The Fool of the World and Other Poems (1906).

James McIntosh Patrick, "Arbirlot Mill, near Arbroath"

"Where is it I carry winter, that I feel no change/In anything?"  Well, perhaps a clue lies here:

                   The Soul's Progress

It enters life it knows not whence; there lies
A mist behind it and a mist before.
It stands between a closed and open door.
It follows hope, yet feeds on memories.
The years are with it, and the years are wise;
It learns the mournful lesson of their lore.
It hears strange voices from an unknown shore,
Voices that will not answer to its cries.

Blindly it treads dim ways that wind and twist;
It sows for knowledge, and it gathers pain;
Stakes all on love, and loses utterly.
Then, going down into the darker mist,
Naked, and blind, and blown with wind and rain,
It staggers out into eternity.

Arthur Symons, Days and Nights (1889).

Yes, I know: Whew!  But I wouldn't say that Symons's vision is uniquely bleak.  For instance, Arthur Schopenhauer and Thomas Hardy came to similar conclusions, so he is in good company.  Bear in mind:  such a vision doesn't render the World and our existence any less wondrous.  In fact, it may heighten our appreciation for what we have stumbled into . . . until we disappear back into the mist.

James McIntosh Patrick, "The Ettrick Shepherd" (1936)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Four-Line Poems, Part One: "Things To Come"

My previous post, which included two four-line poems by Edward Thomas and Michael Longley, got me to thinking about four-line poems in general. There are, in fact, quite a few fine quatrain poems in English.

Perhaps the four-line poem can be thought of as the artistic equivalent, in English, of the Japanese haiku.   A haiku consists of 17 syllables written in three lines (although it can be written in one line).  I know just enough Japanese to be dangerous.  However, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that Japanese is more concise than English.  A great deal more can be accomplished in 17 Japanese syllables than in 17 English syllables. Hence, English speakers need one more line, and many more syllables, than the Japanese do to create a memorable short poem.

The following poem by James Reeves has been a favorite of mine for a couple of decades.  It becomes more resonant (and more insistent) with each passing year.

Terrick Williams, "Quiet Night, Honfleur" (c. 1922)

                      Things to Come

The shadow of a fat man in the moonlight
     Precedes me on the road down which I go;
And should I turn and run, he would pursue me:
     This is the man whom I must get to know.

James Reeves, The Questioning Tiger (1964).

Now, I am not about to suggest that there is a "formula" for a successful four-line poem.  But one thing is clear:  the poet must get to the point. Staying away from adjectives is a good idea.  Precise images are also a good idea.

As one might expect, the fourth line is crucial.  I would not say that it has to contain a surprise or a twist.  Nor would I say that it has to tie things up neatly.  In poetry, ineffability -- as opposed to obscurity -- is always a good thing.  I never like to begin a sentence:  This poem is about . . .  

But I would say that the final line should, while being of a piece with the first three lines, make a turn (I cannot come up with a better word at the moment) that causes a "click" in the reader.  The "click" is, yes, ineffable.

Thomas Train (1890-1978), "Headlights"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winter Into Spring, Part Three: "Thaw"

Edward Thomas wrote four four-line poems:  "In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)," "The Cherry Trees," "When he should laugh," and "Thaw."  "Thaw," as one might expect, fits well with my recent theme of Winter Into Spring.

                                              John Nash, "Winter Scene"


Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

Edna Longley (editor), Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2008).

In her comment to the poem, Edna Longley notes that the phrase "delicate as flower of grass" was also used by Thomas in a prose piece titled "Flowers of Frost":  "The beeches that were yesterday a brood of giantesses are now insubstantial and as delicate as flowers of grass."  Ibid, page 285.

                     John Nash, "Winter Scene, Buckinghamshire" (1920)

As I have noted before, Michael Longley is an admirer of Edward Thomas's poetry.  Thus, it may not be merely a coincidence that he has also written a four-line poem titled "Thaw."


Snow curls into the coalhouse, flecks the coal.
We burn the snow as well in bad weather
As though to spring-clean that darkening hole.
The thaw's a blackbird with one white feather.

Michael Longley, The Echo Gate (1979).

Longley's poem is an excellent companion piece to Thomas's poem:  his poem looks inward; Thomas's poem looks outward.  And "freckled" becomes "flecks."  And the "rooks" turn into "a blackbird."  But the same territory -- be it inward or be it outward -- is explored by both poets.

                       John Nash, "Melting Snow at Wormingford" (1962)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Winter Into Spring, Part Two: "Late Snow"

J. C. Squire (1884-1958) is now known (if at all) as a traditionalist who was opposed to the project of literary "modernism."  Whether that reputation is blameworthy or praiseworthy depends upon what one thinks of "modernism" and its spawn.  But, like most generalizations, the "truth" about Squire is not as straightforward as it seems.

Thus, it should be noted that, as the editor of The London Mercury, he published the poetry of Ivor Gurney in the 1920s, when most other editors had become exasperated with Gurney's eccentricity.  Time has shown that Gurney was as modern as they came in the 1920s.  What's more, the fact that Squire got under T. S. Eliot's skin is, in my view, a good thing.

He also wrote poetry, nearly all of which has disappeared from view. However, every so often he came up with something memorable.  We should always bear in mind that it is the poem, not the poet, that matters.

          Douglas Percy Bliss, "Snow in April, Liberton, Edinburgh" (1924)

                                     Late Snow

The heavy train through the dim country went rolling, rolling,
Interminably passing misty snow-covered plough-land ridges
That merged in the snowy sky; came turning meadows, fences,
Came gullies and passed, and ice-coloured streams under frozen bridges.

Across the travelling landscape evenly drooped and lifted
The telegraph wires, thick ropes of snow in the windless air;
They drooped and paused and lifted again to unseen summits,
Drawing the eyes and soothing them, often, to a drowsy stare.

Singly in the snow the ghosts of trees were softly pencilled,
Fainter and fainter, in distance fading, into nothingness gliding,
But sometimes a crowd of the intricate silver trees of fairyland
Passed, close and intensely clear, the phantom world hiding.

O untroubled these moving mantled miles of shadowless shadows,
And lovely the film of falling flakes, so wayward and slack;
But I thought of many a mother-bird screening her nestlings,
Sitting silent with wide bright eyes, snow on her back.

J. C. Squire, Poems, Second Series (1922).

              Stanislawa de Karlowska, "Snow in Russell Square" (c. 1935)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winter Into Spring, Part One: "Last Hours"

In my previous post, I noted the imminent arrival of the crocus.  However, as I suggested, perhaps I shouldn't be too impatient.  All in good time.

This shoulder season of winter into spring does have its own attractions. The passing of winter does not possess the same wistfulness quotient as the passing of summer into autumn or of autumn into winter.  Yet, it is a time whose vanishing beauties cannot help but awaken a feeling of regret.

For instance, the sight of bare branches against the sky can be as lovely as the threshing and unresting castles (thank you, Philip Larkin) of spring and summer.  I will miss them.

                                 Gilbert Spencer, "From My Studio" (c. 1959)

                 Last Hours

        A gray day and quiet,
        With slow clouds of gray,
And in dull air a cloud that falls, falls,
                    All day.

        The naked and stiff branches
        Of oak, elm, thorn,
In the cold light are like men aged and

        Only a gray sky,
        Grass, trees, grass again,
And all the air a cloud that drips, drips,
                    All day.

        Lovely the lonely
        Bare trees and green grass --
Lovelier now the last hours of slow winter
                    Slowly pass.

John Freeman, Memories of Childhood and Other Poems (1919).

             Gilbert Spencer, "Burdens Farm with Melbury Beacon" (c. 1943)

Friday, February 8, 2013

"The Year's Awakening"

Perhaps I am rushing things, but any day now I expect to see the first crocus of the year.

I know nothing about the movement of the spheres, but I have been watching as, week by week, the sun has been setting further and further to the north, across the waters of the Sound, behind the Olympic Mountains, and out into the Pacific.  By June, it will be setting far to the northwest, beyond the Canadian border.

Soon the crocuses will come.

                               Eliot Hodgkin, "Two Hyacinth Bulbs" (1966)

            The Year's Awakening

How do you know that the pilgrim track
Along the belting zodiac
Swept by the sun in his seeming rounds
Is traced by now to the Fishes' bounds
And into the Ram, when weeks of cloud
Have wrapt the sky in a clammy shroud,
And never as yet a tinct of spring
Has shown in the Earth's apparelling;
        O vespering bird, how do you know,
                How do you know?

How do you know, deep underground,
Hid in your bed from sight and sound,
Without a turn in temperature,
With weather life can scarce endure,
That light has won a fraction's strength,
And day put on some moments' length,
Whereof in merest rote will come,
Weeks hence, mild airs that do not numb;
        O crocus root, how do you know,
                How do you know?

Thomas Hardy, Satires of Circumstance, Lyrics and Reveries (1914).  In a note, Hardy indicates that the poem was written in February of 1910.

                                                         Raymond Booth
                                                          "Crocus" (1962)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"The River Of Rivers In Connecticut"

My recent series of posts about looking at, or seeing, the World got me to thinking about one of my favorite poems.  The poem is by Wallace Stevens, whose "Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself" I posted last week. As I noted in my previous post, that poem is the final poem in his final collection, which was published when he was 75.  He died the following year.

"The River of Rivers in Connecticut" is the second to last poem in the collection.  Taken together, I think that the two poems serve as a lovely and moving valedictory summing-up by Stevens.

Walter Goodin, "The River Beverley" (1938)

    The River of Rivers in Connecticut

There is a great river this side of Stygia,
Before one comes to the first black cataracts
And trees that lack the intelligence of trees.

In that river, far this side of Stygia,
The mere flowing of the water is a gayety,
Flashing and flashing in the sun.  On its banks,

No shadow walks.  The river is fateful,
Like the last one.  But there is no ferryman.
He could not bend against its propelling force.

It is not to be seen beneath the appearances
That tell of it.  The steeple at Farmington
Stands glistening and Haddam shines and sways.

It is the third commonness with light and air,
A curriculum, a vigor, a local abstraction . . .
Call it, once more, a river, an unnamed flowing,

Space-filled, reflecting the seasons, the folk-lore
Of each of the senses; call it, again and again,
The river that flows nowhere, like a sea.

Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems (1954).  Farmington and Haddam are towns in Connecticut.  Stevens lived in Hartford, Connecticut.

                       I. E. Shaw, "Rhuddlan Castle, Denbighshire" (1988)

Regardless of what the poem means, it sounds beautiful.  The beauty begins with the title and carries through to the end.  I am stating the obvious, but it is evident that much of the beauty lies in the fact that the poem does indeed flow like a river.  Nearly every line contains some sort of assonance, consonance, and/or alliteration.  Notice, in particular, the recurrence of rs, and sounds.  The repetitive sounds are coupled with a syntax that is smooth and rhythmic.  Reading the poem creates the feeling of being part of a "propelling force," "an unnamed flowing."

As for what the poem "means," I suggest that we think about the back-and-forth between the Imagination and Reality (the World) that is at the heart of Stevens's view of how we ought to live.  We may also wish to consider something that Stevens wrote in "Sunday Morning":  "Death is the mother of beauty."   Make no mistake:  we will all eventually end up in Stygia, accompanied by the ferryman.  In the meantime, the river of rivers surrounds us, together with "the appearances that tell of it.''  It is up to us to make something out of the things around us that flash and flash in the sun, that glisten and shine and sway.

                                 Trevor Makinson, "Maryhill Goods Yard"

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blackthorn, Revisited

Charles Tomlinson is a close observer of the natural world, and his descriptions of that world are both precise and illuminating.  The title of one of his earliest collections is Seeing Is Believing, and I think that that phrase characterizes quite well his work as a whole.  He is also an artist. Thus, it is not surprising that his poetry has a strong pictorial feel to it.  In the following two poems, he considers the blackthorn.

                                 Christopher Nevinson, "Near Leatherhead"

                   Blackthorn Winter

Pallor of blossom between still-gaunt trees:
The blackthorn's white acetylene is clearing
Spaces for summer and the vast arrival,
Swimming whose floodtide we shall still recall
This first and tentative, this weightless stirring
Of whiteness above the thicket of winter's vestiges.

Charles Tomlinson, The Vineyard Above the Sea (Carcanet 1999).

I learned from a reader's comment this week that the term "blackthorn winter" is used in England to describe a cold spell in late winter or early spring.  In the American South, the term "blackberry winter" is used in the same fashion.

                       Christopher Nevinson, "A Winter Landscape" (1926)

               The Order of Saying

'As soon as the blackthorn comes in flower
     The wind blows cold,' she says:
I see those bushes tossed and whitening,
     Drawing the light and currents of the air
Into their mass and depth; can only see
     The order of her saying in that flare
That rises like a beacon for the wind
     To flow into, to twist and wear
Garment and incandescence, flag of spring.

Charles Tomlinson, The Flood (Oxford University Press 1981).

              Christopher Nevinson, "View of the Sussex Weald" (c. 1927)

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Poets are wont to write about the blackthorn as it begins to bloom in late winter or early spring, particularly in connection with the chill winds that accompany the turning of the year.  Straddling the seasons, the blackthorn bears winter's bleakness, while at the same time hinting of spring.  A precursor of the crocus.

                                       John Aldridge, "Winter" (1947)

          "Endure Hardness"

A cold wind stirs the blackthorn
     To burgeon and to blow,
Besprinkling half-green hedges
     With flakes and sprays of snow.

Thro' coldness and thro' keenness,
     Dear hearts, take comfort so:
Somewhere or other doubtless
     These make the blackthorn blow.

Christina Rossetti, Verses (1893).  "Blow" in this instance means to blossom or to bloom.

With its suggestion that "coldness" and "keenness" and "hardness" will eventually give way to reawakening and growth, "Endure Hardness" is reminiscent of Rossetti's "There Is a Budding Morrow in Midnight," which I have posted here previously.  Here are the last three lines of that poem:

For a future buds in everything;
               Grown, or blown,
Or about to break.

Christina Rossetti, Poems (1888).

                                 John Aldridge, "Bridge, February" (1963)

The resemblance of blackthorn blossoms to snow recurs in the following poem by Michael Longley.

                            The Blackthorn

A bouquet for my fifties, these flowers without leaves
Like easter snow, hailstones clustering at dayligone --
From the difficult thicket a walking stick in bloom, then
Astringency, the blackthorn and its smoky plum.

Michael Longley, The Weather in Japan (Jonathan Cape 2000).

In a note, Longley indicates that "dayligone" (line 2) is a "Scots (or Ulster Scots)" word which means "twilight, dusk."  Ibid, page 68.  The word "easter" (line 2) is not capitalized in the original.

                                 John Aldridge, "Landscape" (c. 1940s)