Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
by William Shakespeare
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly…
I was going to start this post with “Polar vortex, meet Mr. Shakespeare.” But after looking over my pictures, I’m going with, “Polar vortex, meet Bridget.”
Bridget is the woman who was waiting for the bus when I put Shakespeare’s poem “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” in the bus shelter.
I entered the bus shelter a little embarrassed. (My typical reaction to poem-elfing.) “Excuse me,” I told the woman standing inside, as if I had barged into a private residence. “I leave poems around town, and I just want to take a picture of this one.”
I asked her how she was bearing up in the cold, and she said, “It’s fine! I’m just waiting and singing,” she said.
Now, don’t be deceived by the sunshine in the picture. This was a bitterly cold day. The sub-zero temperatures had closed schools, kept plumbers busy and most people indoors. The inside of the bus shelter was protected from the wind, but it was still no summer picnic. And there was Bridget singing. Singing!
She told me she was singing church songs. “Hallelujah, My God,” I think she said.
I felt a little ridiculous, my poem-elfing a fool’s errand. Anyone singing praise to God on the coldest day of the year didn’t need Shakespeare to tell her winter’s not so bad.
Shakespeare’s poem is actually meant to be sung too, but it’s not exactly a tune for Maria von Trapp to brave her way through a thunderstorm. It’s dark and cynical, better suited to Liz Lemon than Maria. The song is from Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It.” A character named Lord Amiens sings “Blow, Blow” to a duke who’s been living in the woods because he’s been usurped by his younger brother. Also listening to the song is a starving young man named Orlando who’s been betrayed and driven out of his kingdom by his older brother. Both the duke and Orlando have found friendship and love to be “feigning“ and “folly.” And yet before and after this bitter little poem is sung, the two men conduct themselves with great kindness. Orlando will not eat until his elderly companion Adam eats. The duke feeds the starving men and ends the scene with this gentleness: “Give me your hand/And let me all your fortunes understand.”
So it’s all of a piece. The sting of bad weather hurts less than the sting of a bad friend; the sting of a bad friend is offset by the kindness of good ones.
And this is Michigan, so if you don’t like the weather, as the old joke goes, wait a few minutes.
Or take a cue from Bridget and sing your way through it. (If you need a little help in that department, here’s a version of “Blow, Blow,” the least stuffy one I could find.)
Poemelf, you deserve a medal for venturing out in the cold to post your poem. And that clear-sided waiting booth looks so blasted coooooooooolllllllllddddddddd! Like something for stashing fish in before shoving them in the freezer…
I thought that old saw “If you don’t like this weather, wait a minute” applied to Maryland’s fickle girlfriend-of-a-weather but see it’s equally applicable to Michigan (and maybe other places as well.)
When it gets this cold I find running through my head something I read a long time ago: “Winter is a-coming-in, sing ye sing goddamn, goddamn…”
Old English? Mis-remembered e.e.cummings? I dunno, I just know I find myself saying it to myself every time I open a door (quite often this year) and find there impatiently waiting for me, as he waits for everyone,palpable as the mailman and no ghost: Mr. Winter.
And even though I’m a native Marylander and still love that state more than any other…..I have to claim the weather joke for Michigan! Maybe I’ll research the origin of that one….
Hiyas! I was looking for a blessing poem this morning and one of your earlier posts that included poems by John O’Donohue came up. But I had used them already so I browsed you site because it seemed so . . . friendly. I found the poem I needed for the blessing today, the one by Thomas McGrath, and several more I saved for other days. I send a poem each day to friends and family, a way to keep in touch in this world of hurry, been doing it for years now. I am always looking for new poems to send and you have some of my favorite ones in your list already. I did not see the one I would write if I could do the . . . micrographia and so I thought I would include it:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
It’s from A New Path to the Waterfall and that book has my other favorite of his Gravy. I love your idea of taping up poems in unexpected places! I think if more people could meet poetry in daily situations, there might be more appreciation of it. It’s easy to get excited about a single poem, where a whole book of them might be intimidating to some.
Thanks for your lovely blog! Nice to “meet” another poetry lover, especially with such enthusiasm and heart!
How great that you send poems to people every day. Are they always “blessing” poems or uplifting poems or do you send whatever catches your fancy?
I love that Ray Carver poem….I often include it with sympathy cards. It’s so simple and so true.
Thank you for your comments! I’d love to hear more about your poem-sending….is it via email….how are the poems received?
I send by email most mornings, with an occasional rare skip, although after almost four years of sending, I skipped most of last year, but have started again daily with the new year. Generally, I write a note to include with the poem, and that’s how it got to be called the morning note. Mostly what I see outside my window, and living in Texas, there is nearly always something out there! Sometimes it’s about the poem or something I’ve read or seen.
For the poems, I don’t like to send ones that are . . . depressing or grim. There’s enough of that in the world already, so I pick ones that make me smile or say something about ordinary people in ordinary days or that remind me to look around and be grateful for the continual wonders of the world. Sunday I try to send a poem that’s a blessing; it’s my way of honoring the day, and reminding me to be grateful for all that I have!
How did you get the idea to be a poem elf? Would you care very much if you had a copy cat? I have some places in my life that could use a poem or two! I never would have thought of it, though it reminds me of . . . knitting bombs or a mini flash mob but with words!
If you would not mind that sometimes there are family things in the note, I would be glad to add you to the mailing. You seem to like the same sort of poems I do. If they fill up your mailbox too much, you can always ask me to stop, and I will, I promise! And you do not have to answer, and I tell that to everyone. I don’t want it to be a chore, though I get an occasional note if something strikes a chord, and that’s the way I like it . Just let me know, you have my address with the comment.
Thanks again for your lovely blog! It’s made my Sunday very enjoyable!
Sherry, I’d love to get on your poem-dispensing list. Poemelf@yahoo.com.
I also think it’s great that you want to spread hard copies of poems around. Send me some pictures (with a note about where and why you put poems where you did) and I’ll post. Or start your own blog!