The freshening cold winds of autumn in southern England always bring to mind some delightful lines of poetry I’ve collected over the years. To introduce some here, I’d like to recall reading an interview by the actress Angie Dickinson, in which she spoke about her childhood in North Dakota where, as I think she put it, there is “nothing between you and the Arctic except barbed wire.”
What a piercing image that is! It brings up immediately those wonderful lines by R S Thomas in his poem A peasant:
…churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind…
It takes a few moments to realise that this arresting image achieves its effect without mentioning the word ‘cold’; it doesn’t have to.
Shakespeare, the Bible and the classics have many mentions of the wind, such as ‘hey,ho, the wind and the rain’ from Twelfth Night, but I also recall poets writing about the winds stripping the leaves from the trees: Housman does it superlatively in his poem On Wenlock Edge where he evokes the wnd blowing over the vanished Roman city:
Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.
In his poem Autumn, Roy Campbell rejoices in it:
I love to see, when leaves depart,
The pure anatomy arrive…
and all those dead leaves fill the poet’s vision in Rilke’s melancholy Herbsttag, written in Paris in 1902:
… in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.
Somehere in the classics is a line about how great it is to lie in bed while the wind blows outside, but I can’t trace it.