Blow, Thou Winter Wind

A favorite grove ~ 16 December 2018
The same grove ~ 6 January 2019

Committing to read the complete works of Shakespeare through the course of 2018 was an iffy proposition from the beginning. As I began to fall behind during the second month of suggested readings, I realized the goal, however lofty, wouldn’t be achieved.

On the other hand, I did continue reading throughout the year, and at its end had discovered unsuspected treasures in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. Especially pleasing were innumerable nature references I’d never noticed, and a delightful collection of songs tucked into the plays. Many of those songs, set to music by various composers and arrangers, continue to be performed today.

In Act 2, Scene 7 of the pastoral comedy As You Like It, a musician named Lord Amiens sings before a group of exiles in the forest. Seeing what the winter wind recently wrought in one of my favorite groves, I couldn’t help remembering, and appreciating, his song.

“Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind”  ~ Folger Consort
Folger Consort is the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.
Blow, blow, thou winter’s 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.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friends remembered not.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

31 thoughts on “Blow, Thou Winter Wind

    1. I’m fairly certain they’re ash: either green or white. The photos I took of the leaves and stems weren’t quite detailed enough to judge. When I went back for more photos, I was reminded that nature, like time, waits for no one. In a couple of months, I’ll have another chance.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I used to think of bright, clear, and blue as the ne plus ultra of skies, but over time I’ve come to appreciate skies in all their variety.

      On the other hand, I am hoping ours stay clear for the eclipse tonight.

  1. Wow, it’s amazing what just a few weeks did to that poor grove! You caught it at just the right times to portray a perfectly contrasting scene. Now, perhaps you’ll go back when the summer sun is blazing and let us bask in that?!?

    1. It will be a pleasure to go back in summer — or even spring, before that. I’m not only eager to see this spot in all four seasons, just down the road is the Texas state champion live oak: newly crowned in 2003. I’ve not been able to get back to it because of high water, but once the winter rains stop, it should be easier.

    1. Thanks, Terry. There are some years when the trees, especially the cypress, will hold their leaves seemingly forever, and then drop them all at once while your back is turned. That’s what these did. On New Year’s Day, they were fully leaved. Then the wind came, and the leaves left.

      They attracted me at first because of their vague resemblance to aspen. I remembered Ansel Adams’s famous photos of aspen and thought, “Why not give it a try?” Getting the second photo for comparison was lagniappe!

    1. I was going to use the version by the Texas Early Music Project from Austin, but they’d combined their recording with another song, and I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to separate them. You might enjoy having a listen to their work, if you enjoy early music. They have quite a repertoire, including some pieces with a Celtic flair.

    1. Isn’t it, though? I rather like the dramatic changes that come with a good, strong frontal passage. Watching tree leaves droop and fall a few here, a few there, can seem a little sad to me. Anthropomorphizer that I am, I’m never sure if the trees are trying to hang on to their leaves, or trying to shoo away reluctant leaves that don’t want to leave home.

    1. It is lovely. There was more color than usual this year, and this nice, clear yellow was especially pleasing. I like the lines of the trees, too. They’re so straight and uniform, and the whitish trunks make them seem aspen- or even birch-like. I’m looking forward to seeing them flower and leaf in the spring.

  2. Whew – what wind we’ve had. (The sea of tall winter grasses on the island are so lovely – those golden colors that are winter here)
    Shakespeare has so much to offer – so rich, so wide, for such broad audiences – so many types of pieces. Breaks my heart that so many turn up their noses without ever looking across his range of works.
    Ready to howl at that moon tonight! (We’ll turn off the Christmas lights under the little palms that are warming them)

    1. And what a water drop to go with that wind. The combination of the winds and the lunar cycle meant a few oyster enthusiasts were out around the reefs, getting themselves a little treat.

      I don’t know where things stand now, but I do remember that in 2015 there was quite a push to remove Shakespearean course requirements from U.S. colleges. In a wonderful twist, after a nine-year hiatus, when Shakespeare wasn’t taught in their schools, the Royal Education Council of Bhutan reinstituted Shakespeare studies in their schools in 2016.

      As a Bhutanese blogger put it, “Shakespeare was discontinued in 2006 with the introduction of New Bhutanese English Curriculum. Many had felt Shakespearean language was obsolete and difficult and that is how it came to a halt.”

      “However, based on the discussions carried out by REC with English teachers across the country, the reintroduction of Shakespeare was deemed important. All the English teachers felt that it has cavernous meaning, much quintessence and values which are not seen in the dramas being taught in the new curriculum.”

      Maybe someday we’ll catch up to Bhutan. We could stand a little cavernous meaning, not to mention a bit of quintessence — and that’s no joke.

  3. The music is beautiful. The music is from composer Thomas Augustine Arne I think it’s fascinating that he wrote music for so many plays.

    The season’s comparison through your images is wonderful. It’s just what I’ve been experiencing here with my little bonsais who don’t like the cold…

    1. I enjoyed reading about Arne. I was particularly amused to see he and I have something in common, although it’s not musically related. When I read this — “Arne was so keen on music that he smuggled a spinet into his room and, damping the sounds with his handkerchief, would secretly practise during the night while the rest of the family slept” — I was taken back to my years in grade school, when I’d sneak into my closet with a flashlight in order to keep reading after I was supposed to be asleep.

      I’ve never known anyone who actually worked with bonsais. I did have a friend who’d buy one, let it die, throw it out, and buy another, but that hardly counts. Eventually, she took the wiser course and bought an artificial one. Are yours evergreen, or of another sort? I only recently learned that a variety of plants can be shaped in the same way as a traditional bonsai tree.

      1. I worked with bonsais by myself, and for a short while in a bonsai club. I have tropical bonsais and two conifers. They’ve had a very rough time even here in Florida these past few months, simply because as bonsais they go through the same stage big trees do: they lose their leaves and get ugly during winter.

        The tropical ones I have are the ‘Ficus’ (from the Moraceae, often called the mulberry family or fig family). The issue with the tropicals is that they need full sun. There is no way to keep them well unless one has a sunny window that has sun at least 5 hours daily or a fairly large sunny terrace.This applies to the little conifer pines too.The little pines (junipers or cedars) need sun constantly or they will perish. Therefore, the commercial ones sold at Home Depot are very nice too, but most people buy them without having the ideal conditions to keep them alive.

        Yes, a variety of plants can be shaped in the same way as traditional bonsai trees. One can buy them at Home Depot, prune them and re-pot as bonsai. These include Bougainvilleas, Hibiscus, and Jades. One can also buy Juniper shrubs and shape them properly to make bonsai. One can practically make a bonsai out of most shrubbery available at the garden center.The main ingredient in full sun.

        I’m sending you the link of a Canadian bonsai master in YouTube. His name is TitleNigel Saunders. I’ve learned the most from him. There are two bonsai schools, the traditional Japanese and the Chinese Title ‘Penjing’. Nigel Saunders follows the ‘Penjing’ school. I like it also because they don’t wire the trees at all, and create miniature landscapes. The traditional Japanese do a lot of wiring to shape the trees, and I don’t like that.

        Hopefully this summer I can show you some of the ones I have. I have to say that they do require care and maintenance because growing them in shallow pots requires frequent monitoring. However, it’s highly therapeutical, and although Nigel Saunders is very advanced with the craft, he transmits this love, patience and dedication. His whole collection of conifer bonsais is always outside during the winter. He also has a huge collection of tropicals which he keeps inside a room during winter. One can also grow bonsais with artificial lights too.

        1. When I first read your comment, I wandered off and started watching those videos and forgot to come back! It’s all very interesting, and there’s a lot I didn’t know. For example, I had no idea that something like my dwarf schefflera could be turned into a bonsai. I wasn’t surprised that the tropicals required so much light, but it did surprise me that the same’s true for conifers. I didn’t realize that some are ‘trained’ with wires, either. I’m not sure how I thought people worked with them, but wires wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

          I really liked the photos in the article about the Penjing school. Those were beautiful. I like the landscape-like emphasis, and the addition of rocks and such. It never occured to me that they might be selling bonsai at Home Depot. Since I don’t roam the garden section, I’ve probably just missed them. I can imagine how much work they take. I hope you do share some of yours in the future.

          1. I’m glad you liked the links. I didn’t have much luck with the schefflera ones, but other people do. Some types tolerate lower levels of light also.

  4. Today’s winter wind is indeed so unkind. That was a lofty goal. I haven’t read Shakespeare since my college days.
    Speaking of reading, I ordered a book of Mary Oliver’s favorites of her works only to learn of her passing the next day.

    1. I came across a collection of sea smoke photos on various bodies of water today — like Lake Superior — and thought, “Oh, my.” I know what it feels like when it’s cold enough for us to get sea smoke. Add in your wind, and my admiration for you all goes up considerably.

      I discovered in my cruise through Shakespeare that not everything he wrote was equally interesting, at least to me. At first, that felt slightly like heresy. Then I decided it was inevitable, given how much he wrote. So I started approaching things differently, doing searches for everything from songs like this one to the seasons, to birds, to crazy women. That was fun, and kept me reading, even though it wasn’t a systematic plod through it all.

      I was more affected by Mary Oliver’s death than I would have expected. It wasn’t a total surprise, since I knew she’d been ill, but I still hated to read it. We’re lucky to have her books.

      1. Around here we get Quabbin Smoke. :-)

        Maybe I’ll follow your lead and reread Shakespeare. I really only remember a few of his plays and maybe a sonnet or two. I am sure I’ll feel Mary Oliver’s loss once I read more of her work. I have always enjoyed your posts with her poems and have lately seen a lot of her verses shared on Facebook in memoriam. (Odd that spellcheck doesn’t know that word…it does now)

  5. Well, you are remembering the friends of those beautiful trees in their green state, as well as without leaves, and I like Debbie’s idea above, to go back and keep documenting that grove from the same spot – if the weather is kind enough!

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those trees beginning to leaf out in another month. It’s time for things to begin stirring here, and I’m anxious for new growth so I can figure out the trees’ identity. I usually need a little more than bark to help me along. There were good leaves in the first photo, but what you can’t see is the amount of water between the road and the trees. I started wading over to them, but kept sinking down to my very boot tops, and decided to wait for another day.

    1. Sometimes I think it’s the structure of early music that appeals most deeply in today’s chaotic environment. Glenn Gould playing Bach, or Renaissance dances, or Gregorian chant — all of them can wipe away a lot of mental stress and lower the blood pressure.

      The trees certainly did change quickly. I rather like that they held their leaves so long, and then lost them in what had to be quite a blow. Now, we’ll wait for the next change to come: new leaves, new nests, and new spring color.

    1. We often have a lingering fall, and then an abrupt change to cold and windy. I was happy to have found these while they still were in leaf; it certainly did make the contrast more dramatic. I’m pleased you like the music, too. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s delightful.

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