The shortest day. Not even eight hours of light here - sunrise (not that you could see it through this morning's blanket of cloud) was just after eight o'clock, and the sun will set at 10 to four. The world turns today ... and tomorrow there will be a little little more light, perhaps only a minute - even that is something to celebrate.
This poem by Donne catches the mood exactly ... if you don't like poetry, just read the first five lines, which describe so precisely the state of nature at this time of year. Just one thing, though: it's not Lucie's day any more, the calendar was reformed (Give us back our eleven days) in 1752 (in England & the eastern seaboard of America). I've just looked up the details of the switch from the muddles of the Julian calendar to the modernity of the Gregorian calendar which we all now use, and it's fascinating how long it took some countries to make the change ... Russian atheletes arrived two weeks late for the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, for instance. Don't you just LOVE Wikipaedia?
I'm going to cook spiced clementines according to Giorgio Novelli's mother's recipe, to bring a bit of sunshine into the house. Recipe and photos later.
A Nocture upon St Lucie's Day, being the shortest day
by John Donne
'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucie's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death — which word wrongs her —
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.
But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.
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