Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Watching the television news, I see that Europe and North America are suffering severe snowstorms – climate change is upon us: the Ice Age cometh. ;-)

I do hope that, by the time my flight comes to Heathrow on New Year's Eve, this gridlock has eased! And on New Year's Day I need to travel to Oxford. Goodness knows how Edinburgh will be the next week...

Perhaps this poem by William Dunbar, writing just before the end of mediæval Catholic Scotland in foul dark Reformation, may strike a chord with frozen northern hemispherians, whom I'll soon be joining for some weeks:


In to thir dirk and drublie dayis,
Quhone sabill all the hevin arrayis
With mystie vapouris, cluddis, and skyis,
Nature all curage me denyis
Off sangis, ballattis, and of playis.

[Into these dark and wet days,
When sable all the heaven arrays
With misty vapours, clouds, and skies,
Nature all courage me denies
Of songs, ballads, and of plays.]

Quhone that the nycht dois lenthin houris,
With wind, with haill, and havy schouris,
My dule spreit dois lurk for schoir,
My hairt for languor dois forloir
For laik of symmer with his flouris.

[When that the night does lengthen hours,
With wind, with hail, and heavy showers,
My sad spirit does lurk threatened
My heart for languor does weaken
For lack of summer with his flowers.]

I walk, I turn, sleip may I nocht,
I vexit am with havie thocht;
This warld all ouir I cast about,
And ay the mair I am in dout,
The mair that I remeid have socht.

[I walk, I turn, sleep may I not,
I vexed am with heavy thought;
This world all over I cast about,
And e'er the more I am in doubt,
The more that I remedy have sought.]

I am assayit on everie syde:
Dispair sayis ay, "In tyme provyde
And get sum thing quhairon to leif,
Or with grit trouble and mischeif
Thow sall in to this court abyd."

[I am assailed on every side:
Despair says e'er, "In time provide
And get some thing whereon to live
Or with great trouble and mischief
Thou shall into this court abide."]

Than Patience sayis, "Be not agast:
Hald Hoip and Treuthe within the fast,
And lat Fortoun wirk furthe hir rage,
Quhome that no rasoun may assuage,
Quhill that hir glas be run and past."

[Then Patience says, "Be not aghast:
Hold Hope and Truth within thee fast,
And let Fortune work forth her rage,
Whom that no reason may assuage,
Till that her glass be run and past."]

And Prudence in my eir sayis ay,
"Quhy wald thow hald that will away?
Or craif that thow may have no space,
Thow tending to ane uther place,
A journay going everie day?"

[And Prudence in my ear says e'er,
"Why would thou hold that will [go] away?
Or crave that thou may have now space,
Though tending to another place,
A journey going every day?]

And than sayis Age, "My freind, cum neir,
And be not strange, I the requeir,
Cum, brodir, by the hand me tak,
Remember thow hes compt to mak
Off all thi tyme thow spendit heir."

[And then says Age, "My friend, come near,
And be not strange, I thee require,
Come, brother, by the hand me take,
Remember thou hast [ac]count to make
Of all thy time thou [hast] spent here."]

Syne Deid castis upe his yettis wyd,
Saying, "Thir oppin sall the abyd;
Albeid that thow wer never sa stout,
Undir this lyntall sall thow lowt:
Thair is nane uther way besyde."

[Then Death casts ope his gates wide,
Saying, "These within shall thee abide;
Albeit that thou were never so stout,
Under this lintel shall thou bow down:
There is no other way beside."]

For feir of this all day I drowp;
No gold in kist, nor wyne in cowp,
No ladeis bewtie, nor luiffis blys,
May lat me to remember this,
How glaid that ever I dyne or sowp.

[For fear of this all day I droop;
No gold in chest, nor wine in cup,
No ladies' beauty, nor lovers' bliss,
May hinder me to remember this,
How glad that ever I dine or sup.]

Yit, quhone the nycht begynnis to schort,
It dois my spreit sum pair comfort,
Off thocht oppressit with the schowris.
Cum, lustie symmer! with thi flowris,
That I may leif in sum disport.

[Yet, when the night begins to shorten,
It does my spirit some poor comfort,
Of thought oppressed with the showers.
Come, lusty summer! with thy flowers,
That I may live in some disport.]


Mark M said...

And we're looking forward to seeing you! Just drop me a note of the times...

Joshua said...

Will do.