The winter storm we had last weekend was followed this weekend by a day of rain. The 10-plus inches of snow on the ground that began the week are now mostly gone. Out my window, south-facing hillocks are largely bare. The big banks of plowed snow that line the streets, greatly diminished.
Winter this year in the North Country has been a series of grey days… overcast skies and light fog that hangs over the cold earth like a bleak blanket. Not the winter of our mind and memory, but a Dickensian one.
Grey days make us long for sun. For those of us who spend our working days in un-natural places without natural light longing can easily turn to desperate daydreaming… a condition I know all too well.
Along with Thoreau this winter, I have been re-reading Shelley again. The kindle app lets me carry him, and a hundred poems, wherever my phone and I go. He is a perfect companion for such grey days.
Today’s poem, “The Question,” has long been one of my favorite Shelley poems. It embodies for me the very essence of the Romantic. Indeed, if I were to teach a class on the Romantic poets, I think I might begin with “The Question.” Simply for the fact that it so perfectly brings together all the elements of Romantic poetry together in such a pleasurable way.
On another bleak December day, I can think of no better poem.
Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:
And nearer to the river’s trembling edgeThere grew broad flag-flowers, purple pranked with white,And starry river buds among the sedge,And floating water-lilies, broad and bright,Which lit the oak that overhung the hedgeWith moonlight beams of their own watery light;
I enjoy the luminosity of these lines: the way Shelley balances rhyme with “purple pranked” alliteration. I cannot read these lines aloud without smiling.
Poetry is meant to provide pleasure, especially on “Bare Winter” days. And a Shelley poem never lets us down.