Winter Poems: 'A Winter's Day', with paintings by Thaulow and Andersen-Lundby.
While it is still winter, here, anyway (it was -7 F this morning), I thought it would be good to present a couple of jan-u-wine poems set in that season.
The poem below contrasts the warm home of Frodo and his parents with the frigid cold outside. It is full of just the right details to create a wonderful atmosphere. The world of the poem seems as real as the room I'm sitting in, perhaps even more real. I feel I am snuggled inside with Frodo, wrapped in familial love and savouring all the good things. Winter presses against the glass and shoulders the door, but it can't get in.
I chose two paintings to set off the poem. The top one, 'Winter at Simoa River', is by Norwegian painter Frits Thaulow, painted in 1883. Thaulow (1847-1906) studied in Copenhagen, Germany (Karlsruhe) and Paris. He was never a huge success but painted fine winter scenes, including those painted at Simoa, in which he captured the complex reflections in the slow-moving river. In this painting, the Simoa, not quite frozen, looks steaming with cold. But the home on the riverbank manages to look cozy, its chimney-smoke streaming like a banner in the icy air.*
*I photoshopped this painting a little, taking the peaked roof off the house to make it more like a hobbit hole. I hope Thaulow will forgive me.
I chose the river painting at the bottom of the poem, 'A Winter River Landscape', for its beautiful but sombre atmosphere, the colours more autumnal than wintry. Danish painter Anders Andersen-Lundby (1840-1923), like Thaulow, was known for his winter scenes. But his specialty was painting them at sunrise and sunset, as well as in this late afternoon light. Perhaps the golden, autumnal light makes me think of the waning of Frodo's childhood happiness, his life with his parents soon to end.
A Winter's Day
Never is the day
bitter with cold,
Even so, I remember such days,
raw with searching wind, blank and silent
the great burden of snow in steps and mounds
and furrows upon the ground,
the river, silenced at last,
(though it may have sung, just a little,
its water-blood still gold-green beneath a crystalline cloak) held fast within the forbidding arms of dirt-iced banks.
We cared not for the river, then,
nor the wind's fingers,
tapping upon the window-glass, creeping and gusting down the long tunnel
of the chimney.
Safe we were, the bitterness without,
safe and warm,
Da holding me upon the chair of his lap,
his voice finding dragons within the hearth-fire,
fingers magiking a silver farthing from the narrow hollow of my ear.
Mumma made chocolate for us, on those days,
the dark richness of it a warm fog within the kitchen,
the silver pot stout and small beside its larger cousin,
a faint cinammon-dusk smell mingling with the deep-earth scent of the chocolate.
I always thought of Oliphaunts then, and places far away,
places where there never was snow,
places where the sun shone, no matter the hour,
places where dragons were born and spread wings of horn and gold-bronze
and flew in cloudless skies.
After a very long while, only the small light of the fire would be left within the room,
and Mumma would hold me, my head safe against the warm
white of her neck, the beating of her heart slow and sure against my side.
And that was *all*, her arms holding me, and Da's voice quiet in an end-of-day story.
That was my world,
a world of bitter cold and ever-so-sweet
Previous Frodo entry:
~ jan-u-wine's "Of Mothers and Memories", plus Mary Cassatt's "Mother and Child", 10-19-10.