What art thou, frost?

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Algy alighted cautiously on the frozen surface of the burn, and perched as lightly as he could on the sparkling crystals. He wondered whether the ice would hold his weight, or whether he would suddenly be plunged into the freezing water, which he could see bubbling through a narrow channel to his side, and feel tickling him through his chilly perch as it gurgled beneath him. He was reminded of some lines from an old poem:

What art thou, frost? and whence are thy keen stores
Deriv’d, thou secret all-invading power,
Whom ev’n th’ illusive fluid cannot fly?
Is not thy potent energy, unseen,
Myriads of little salts, or hook’d, or shap’d
Like double wedges, and diffus’d immense
Through water, earth, and ether? Hence at eve,
Steam’d eager from the red horizon round,
With the fierce rage of Winter deep suffus’d,
An icy gale, oft shifting, o’er the pool
Breathes a blue film, and in its mid-career
Arrests the bickering stream. The loosen’d ice,
Let down the flood and half dissolv’d by day,
Rustles no more; but to the sedgy bank
Fast grows, or gathers round the pointed stone,
A crystal pavement, by the breath of heaven
Cemented firm; till, seiz’d from shore to shore,
The whole imprison’d river growls below.

Algy sends special fluffy hugs to all his friends in the frozen north this weekend, to help you all keep warm this weekend, and he says “If you venture out onto the ice, please take great care!” xo

[Algy is quoting a few line lines from Winter, part of the long poem cycle The Seasons by the 18th century Scottish poet James Thomson.]

Cold Blows The Wind

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The north wind was vicious and the sunlight was feeble and cold. Algy didn’t feel like getting up in the morning, but the days were much too short now to be wasted. So he fluffed up his feathers and flew down to the sea with a book of poetry under his wing. Tucked into a sheltered corner among the rocks, Algy read happily in the cool light reflecting off the water all around him, listening to the sounds of the Sea of the Hebrides (audio post below) as the wind drove the waves spitting and surging onto the beach beside him.

         Cauld blows the wind frae north to south,
         And drift is driving sairly ;
         The sheep are couring in the heugh,
         Oh sirs! it’s winter fairly.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         I’d rather gae supperless to my bed,
         Than rise in the morning early.

         Loud rairs the blast amang the woods,
         The branches tirling barely,
         Amang the chimley taps it thuds,
         And frost is nippin sairly.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         To sit a’ the night I’d rather agree,
         Than rise in the morning early.

         The sun peeps o’er the southlan’ hill,
         Like ony tim’rous carlie;
         Just blinks a wee, then sinks again,
         And that we find severely.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         When snaw blaws into the chimley cheek,
         Wha’d rise in the morning early.

         Nae linties lilt on hedge or bush,
         Poor things, they suffer sairly ;
         In cauldrife quarters a’ the night,
         A’ day they feed but sparely.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         Nae fate can be waur, in winter time,
         Than rise in the morning early.

[Algy is reading Cold Blows The Wind, a lesser-known Scots poem by John Hamilton, published in Walter de la Mare’s anthology Come Hither.]