Poem of the Frost and Snow by Lewis Morris

Ere I freeze, to sing bravely
By Mary, is best for me;
I will make a new canto
To the terrible mist and snow,
Steel ground, grass short and withered,
The black month, the shiver-stirred.
I’m not hale here, nor wisely
Sing nor well, alas for me!
Better the awkward Muse might
Run in May or June’s sunlight,
When a sweet bird in the thick
Of leaves charms with its music,
And under a birch like heaven
A fool enjoys hugging Gwen,
And his voice in a greenhall
Is found, and a poem’s soul.
But not like this, I dare swear,
Does winter stay forever.
How old it looks, white snowdrift
Hiding every slope and rift,
Everywhere cold, white each tree,
And no stream in the valley.
Water locked, no genial day,
Black frost along the footway;
Birds of the world, sad deadlock –
God’s put their food under lock:
The key let Him take home then
Rightly to be kept in heaven!

by Lewis Morris
(1701-1765)

Additional information: Lewis Morris (2 March 1701 – 11 April 1765) was a Welsh hydrographer, antiquary, poet and lexicographer, the eldest of the Morris brothers of Anglesey. Lewis was the eldest son of Morris ap Rhisiart Morris, a farmer, of Llanfihangel-Tre’r-Beirdd in Anglesey. His bardic name was Llewelyn Ddu o Fôn (“Black Llewelyn [Lewis] of Anglesey”). The correspondence between him and his younger brothers is a valuable historical source. In 1751, he founded the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion along with his brother Richard.

More details about him can be found on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography website.

It is important not to confuse him with Sir Lewis Morris (1833 – 1907) who was a later poet of the Anglo-Welsh school as well as being an academic and politician.

Heron at Port Talbot by Gillian Clarke

Snow falls on the cooling towers
delicately settling on cranes.
Machinery’s old bones whiten; death
settles with its rusts, its erosions.

Warning of winds off the sea
the motorway dips to the dock’s edge.
My hands tighten on the wheel against
the white steel of the wind.

Then we almost touch, both braking flight,
bank on the air and feel that shocking
intimacy of near-collision,
animal tracks that cross in snow.

I see his living eye, his change of mind,
feel pressure as we bank, the force
of his beauty. We might have died
in some terrible conjunction.

The steel town’s sulphurs billow
like dirty washing. The sky stains
with steely inks and fires, chemical
rustings, salt-grains, sand under snow.

And the bird comes, a surveyor
calculating space between old workings
and the mountain hinterland, archangel
come to re-open the heron-roads,

meets me at an inter-section
where wind comes flashing off water
interrupting the warp of the snow
and the broken rhythms of blood.

by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (Gwasg Gomer, 1982)

A recording of Gillian Clarke discussing the poem’s inspiration and reciting the poem itself at 0:44

Additional information: The steel works plant in Port Talbot covers a large area of the coastline near the southern area of the town. The plant’s two blast furnaces and the steel production plant buildings are major landmarks visible from both the M4 motorway and the South Wales Main Line when passing through the town. The air when passing is notable suffice to say.

Here is an analysis of the poem.

If you’re reading this on Boxing Day 2021, when this post was published, I hope you had a nice Christmas Day (for those who celebrate it) yesterday.

The Light of Day by David Geraint Jones

The light of day is cold and grey and there is no more peace
By the high moon-washed walls, where we laughed and where we sung;
And I can’t go back to those days of short unthinking ease,
When I was very foolish and you were very young.
For you the laurel and the rose will bloom, and you will see
The dawn’s delight, firelight on rafters, wind, seas, and thunder,
Children asleep and dreams and hearts at ease, when life will be,
Even at its close, a quiet and an ageless wonder.
For me the poppies soon will dance and sway in Haute Avesnes:
The sunrise of my love slides into dusk, its day untasted:
Yet as I lie, turf-clad, and freed of passion, and of pain,
I find my sacrifice of golden things not wasted;
Your peace is bought with mine, and I am paid in full, and well,
If but the echo of your laughter reaches me in hell.

by David Geraint Jones
a.k.a. David Rhys Geraint Jones
died of wounds, 1944

Additional information: There isn’t much information about him but this page gives a concise yet detailed account of Jones‘ time in the army leading up to his death. Haute-Avesnes is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France.

Winter by Anonymous (10th-11th Century)

Wind sharp, hillside bleak, hard to win shelter;
Ford is impassible, lake is frozen;
A man may near stand on one stalk of grass.

Wave upon wave roofs over land-edge;
Shouts loud against breast of peak and brae;
Outside, a man may barely stand.

Lake-haunts cold, with the storm winds of winter;
Withered the reeds, stalks all broken;
Wind-gusts angry, stripping of wood.

Cold bed of fish in the gloom of ice;
Stag lean, bearded reeds;
Evening brief, slant of bent wood.

Snow falls, covers with white;
Warriors go not forth on foray;
Lakes cold, their tint without sunlight.

Snow falls, hoarfrost white;
Idle shield on an old shoulder;
A monstrous wind freezes the grass.

Snow falls, high in the ice;
Sweeps the wind atop the thick trees;
A stout shield that, on a bold shoulder.

Snow falls, covers the vale;
Warriors hurry to battle;
I’ll not go, wound does not let me.

Snow falls, over the slope;
Prisoned the steed, the cattle thin;
Here’s no question of a summer’s day.

Snow falls, white border of mountains;
On the sea, ship’s timbers bare;
The coward nurses many a scheme.

by Anonymous
(10th -11th century)
translated by Tony Conran