Monday, December 21, 2009


Norfolk roads have been made beautiful and unfamiliar by the snow. No, that should be 'beautiful but unfamiliar'. The beauty of Norfolk lies in being Norfolk. But snow neutralises. I drive down lanes overhung with branches bending under the white weight that could be in Russia or Scandinavia. It's thrilling but wrong. One of the most perfect poems I know was written about this strange nothingness of snow. Here it is.

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


  1. What is it about East Anglia? It is such a subtle landscape (not to be confused with the fens, which is only a few hundred years removed from a sea bed) which hides odd little villages, strange grand avenues of trees that go nowhere ... And unrlentingly beautiful it ain't, but the ugliness tends to be interesting, without that monolithic mill-owners-crushing-the-working-poor feeling you get oop north. No native stone leads to a diversity of building - the cotswolds are lovely, but I never know which village I'm in. You're never far from a substantial farm settlement, usually with some quirky individual embellishments, testimony to the richness of the soil.

    And it's full of ghosts. M. R. James certainly knew it.
    One beautiful summer evening I took a walk to my local church (which is a couple of miles outside the village for some reason), strolling amongst the gravestones & inevitably contemplating my own mortality, when I came across a really old one, all sign of inscription gone, but for some reason the motif at the head was startlingly intact. It was a skull surmounting crossbones. The grin on the skull was terrifying; it looked obscene, somehow as blasphemous as when you find a sheela-na-gig on a church.

    I've been back, but I can't find it again.

  2. I really like that. Snowy landscapes have a peculiar sound. I swear sometimes you can hear it coming.

  3. The Scotman's poem of the month, by John Glenday:

    Silence the colour of snow

  4. Nice that also like mine? The poems in it are not so doing word. Like doing word.

  5. I wish you and yours a happy Christmas Bryan.