The night is freezing fast,
To-morrow comes December;
And winterfalls of old
Are with me from the past;
And chiefly I remember
How Dick would hate the cold.
Fall, winter, fall; for he,
Prompt hand and headpiece clever,
Has woven a winter robe,
And made of earth and sea
His overcoat for ever,
And wears the turning globe.
A. E. Housman, Poem XX, Last Poems (1922).
"Winterfall" (line 3) does not appear in The Oxford English Dictionary. A lovely word.
William Anstice Brown, "Autumn" (1981)
The second stanza of Housman's poem brings to mind a poem by William Wordsworth (of which I have sung the praises on more than one occasion).
A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.
William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems (1800).
Several commentators have noticed the parallels between the two poems, but no one knows whether Housman's echo of Wordsworth was conscious or subconscious.
William Anstice Brown, "Spring" (1981)
And, in a different direction, "fall, winter, fall" in the first line of the second stanza leads us to this:
Fall leaves fall die flowers away
Lengthen night and shorten day
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day
Emily Bronte, The Complete Poems (edited by Janet Gezari) (Penguin 1992). The poem is unpunctuated, as it appears in Bronte's manuscript. It was not published during her lifetime.
Whether Housman used "fall leaves fall" as a model for "fall, winter, fall" we do not know. It is likely mere happenstance, which is just as well: I am not suggesting that somebody should write an academic paper on "The Influence of Emily Bronte on A. E. Housman." God forbid! No, I am simply suggesting that, for purposes of our poetic journey, these sorts of serendipities can carry us from one place to the next.
William Anstice Brown, "In Purley Meadow, Sherborne, Dorset" (1979)