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Friday, 7 December 2012

“The Touches of Winter are Round us; and Weather yet Wilder Draws Nigh…” Or: a Winter Poem:

It has become somewhat customary here to usher in Christmas with some Victorian festive poetry, and this year will be no different. There’s something about nineteenth century winter and Christmas-themed poems that really evoke – to me, anyway – the spirit of past Christmasses; and by that I don’t mean Victorian Christmas necessarily, but even festive periods as early as twenty or thirty years ago, when, to me, Christmas seemed a little more simple than it does now.

Perhaps it was just where I was living at the time, or maybe (more likely) that I was a child, but I’m sure there were more carol singers, snowy days and a shorter build-up to Christmas than now; but maybe I look upon the past with rosy spectacles.

Today’s poem is not one about Christmas, but rather, now that there is a chill upon the air and we’ve had a little snowfall here in Britain this week, one about winter.

If you find modern-day Christmas a little bit of a blur, then I hope you’ll enjoy the simple spirit of the poems featured here over the next couple of weeks.
'London in Winter' by William Walcot, 1909 
Here’s this year’s first:

An Old Body's Winter Song.

The touches of Winter are round us;
He is busy with wind and with rain,
The leaves are all swept from the branches,
The pools are brimful in the lane.
How sombre the noontide! how sullen
The lowlands, where snowflakes fly fast!
How plaintive the notes of the robin!
For Winter has reached us at last.

The touches of Winter are on us;
Our cheeks waning pallid and thin,
Our eyes fading slowly in colour,
Bespeak some sure fading within.
But if mind has grown larger and purer,
Its thoughts and its aims all more clear,
Its perceptions of truth all corrected,
We care not tho' Winter is here.

The touches of Winter are on us;
Our hands are now feeble and slow,
Our feet totter round the small garden -
Are chilly beside the hearth glow.
But if in the long past behind us
Our words and our works have been great
In number and kind, and refreshing,
We welcome our winter estate.

The touches of Winter are on us;
How dull beats the heart in the breast!
The breath comes and goes in long pauses,
We are fond of our room and our rest.
But if the soul's hope has been garnered,
The will trained to strike passion dumb,
Tho' bruises and blood linger on us,
We are thankful our winter has come.

The touches of Winter are round us;
And weather yet wilder draws nigh,
Stormy days with their weltering cloud rack,
Frigid nights with no star in the sky.
But if in the world beyond this world
Springs life free from cold or decay,
Oh, Winter, you herald His working
Whose will is as right as His way.
                                                              - Alfred Norris, from Leisure Hour, 1877

More festive poetry next week, and if you’ve enjoyed this, click on the ‘poetry’ label in the ‘looking for something specific?’ list of words on the right more. 


  1. Fantastic! Lovely poem. I've got a Victorian book about the Poor Robin's Christmas dinners , which has a lovely poem. I'll see if I can scan it in.

  2. Well if you do get any of them online you'll have to let me know, thoroughly enjoy a good down-to-earth non-famous bit of Victorian poetry; half the time they're better than the famous ones!

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Though it was 75 degree Fahrenheit here on the sunny island of Galveston, I have my Christmas tree up and garlands hung and your wintery poem to cool my sweaty brow. Thanks for all your hard work at keeping the Victorian era alive for us all year round. It is much appreciated.

  4. Thank you Rosa! It's hard to imagine it being quite that hot at the moment, here in England we are enjoying a bit of a wintry cold-snap.
    After reading your book I feel like I've been to Galveston - in the 1850's, anyway, and am quite familiar with the dusty heat!

    Thanks for the support, tweets & blog posts!

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    1. Man and Van - thanks for your kind words, I hope you'll be back soon!

  6. Hello!

    I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

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  7. In the paintings it is quite plain to see that she was a handsome woman; despite this, as well as her great talent, Christina never married. Classic Sempstress