The Storm Has Spread Over All

Snow_blizzard

Cold, cold!

Cold to-night is broad Moylurg

Higher the snow than the mountain-range,

The deer cannot get at their food.

 

Cold till Doom!

The storm has spread over all:

A river is each furrow upon the slope,

Each ford a full pool.

 

A great tidal sea is each loch,

A full loch is each pool:

Horses cannot get over the ford of Ross,

No more can two feet get there.

 

The fish of Ireland are a-roaming,

There is no strand which the wave does not pound,

Not a town there is in the land,

Not a bell is heard, no crane talks.

 

The wolves of Cuan-wood get

Neither rest nor sleep in their lair,

The little wren cannot find

Shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon.

 

Keen wind and cold ice

Has burst upon the little company of birds,

The blackbird cannot get a lee to her liking,

Shelter for its side in Cuan-wood.

 

Cozy our pot on its hook,

Crazy the hut on the slope of Lon:

The snow has crushed the wood here,

Toilsome to climb up Ben-bo.

 

Glenn Rye’s ancient bird

From the bitter wind gets grief;

Great her misery and her pain,

The ice will get into her mouth.

 

From flock and from down to rise—

Take it to heart!—were folly for thee:

Ice in heaps on every ford—

That is why I say ‘cold’!

 

Source: Meyer, Kuno, trans. Selections From Ancient Irish Poetry. London, 1911. p. 57. In the Public Domain.

 

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Cold Companions

Yep, our pipes froze. Interestingly enough: the hot water, not the cold. I guess flushing the toilet overnight was enough to keep the cold water flowing.

Mindful of my Russian friends celebrating Christmas today, I share this Russian folk tale about the cold:

Russian Churc.h Photo by A. Savin.

Abramtsevo museum-reserve in Moscow Oblast, Russia. Church of the Holy Mandilion. Jan. 2013. Photo by A. Savin via Creative Commons

A husband and newlywed wife are walking in the forest. He is hunting, and she is keeping  him company for part of the way. Suddenly, she starts crying. “Don’t cry, dear,” the peasant consoles. “I’ll be back soon.”

“That’s not why I’m crying,” the wife says. “I’m crying because my feet are cold.”

“It’ll be okay,” my fiancé told me about our pipes. One way or another, it will be. I’m still thankful for home and heat and a roof over my head. We joined a gym yesterday. At least we have a place to shower.

 

Paraphrased from Aleksandr Afanasev’s Russian Fairy Tales. NY: Pantheon, 1945, 1973, p. 282.

Shackleton & Eliot: You’re Never Alone

“Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton.”  –Apocryphal announcement for the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. [1]

Photo by Frank Hurley, a member of Shakleton's expedition, taken ~1914-1915, Public Domain, courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales and Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Frank Hurley, a member of Shakleton’s expedition, taken ~1914-1915, Public Domain, courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales and Wikimedia Commons

2014: The Midwest and Northeast hunker down for blizzard and blizzard-like conditions, followed by frigid cold. In Antarctica, 52 passengers are rescued from a Russian research vessel trapped in ice; less well reported: the 22-member crew stays with the ship. The purpose of their Antarctic voyage: to recreate Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 to 1913 exploratory voyage.

Nearly one hundred years ago, Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton watched his aptly-named Endurance become trapped in Antarctic pack ice for months before being crushed and swallowed by massive shifting ice floes.  Shackleton had no helicopters to radio for rescue in 1915. His resultant sixteen-month odyssey entailed making camp on ice floes, dragging sledges and life boats across glaciers, cooking seal and penguin meat over a blubber-fueled camp stove, and splitting-up and taking a last-ditch rescue party on a sea journey in a lifeboat followed by a thirty-six hour do-or-die hike across unexplored interior South Georgia island to finally reach the safe harbor of the ‘civilization’ at a remote whaling station.

In their loneliest moments of isolation, during their near-delirious deprivations across the unnamed mountains, glaciers, and crevasses, Shackleton and his men never felt truly alone. Shackleton kept to himself his impression that their three-man rescue party was joined by a fourth.  Captain Frank Worsley later admitted to the “curious feeling on the march that there was another person with us.”[2] T. S. Eliot would capture these sentiments in his epic poem The Waste Land:

“Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you. . .” (lines 360-363).

In his own mind, Shackleton explained it. “When I look back at those days I have no doubt that Providence guided us,” he wrote in South, his account of their odds-defying journey.[3]

I believe Providence walks beside us—some might say within us—on our own sometimes-perilous life journeys.  We do not have to be truly at the edge of the world and the literal end of our rope to be aware of God’s presence in our lives. (Human nature being what it is, our crises often seen to function in this fashion.)

I can starting with being thankful for a snow day off from work, and offer a prayer for the less fortunate, for the crew remaining on the contemporary Russian Antarctic vessel, for the essential employees plowing the roads, fighting fires in Minnesota temperatures so cold the water freezes immediately, and those working extra hospital shifts and fixing downed power lines. Right or wrong, I gave a subway token to a Septa station panhandler during yesterday’s evening commute: May everyone stay warm today.

"Within a few Seconds she heeled over until she had a List of Thirty Degrees to Port".  From Shackleton's 1919 book, South. Public Domain. via Wikimedia Commons.

“Within a few Seconds she heeled over until she had a List of Thirty Degrees to Port”. From Shackleton’s 1919 book, South. Public Domain. via Wikimedia Commons.

Bonus Info

Film and photographs of the Endurance expedition.

Well-done tribute site by Nova.

Shackleton narrates the loss of a pony, via the Australian Screen archives.

Shackleton museum.

Shackleton as expert witness on Titanic inquest.

Whisky recovered from Shackleton’s 1907-1909 voyage.

Photo by Frank Hurley, 1915. Public domain. Via the State Library of Queensland and Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Frank Hurley, 1915. Public domain. Via the State Library of Queensland and Wikimedia Commons.

Bibliography/Notes

Heacox, Kim. Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. 1999.

Hempleman-Adams, David, Sophie Gordon, Emma Stuart, and Alan Donnithorne. The Heart of the Great Unknown: Scott, Shackleton, and Antarctic Photography. NY: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Margot Morell and Stephanie Capparell. Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons From the Great Antarctic Explorer. N.Y.: Viking, 2001. Reviewed by the author of this blog at Library Worklife.

Worsley, F.A. Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure. NY: W. W. Norton & Co., 1931, 1999.


[1] Heacox, Kim. Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge, p. 34

[2] Ibid, p. 185.

[3] Ibid, p. 183.

The Cuckoo Song

cuckoo

Sumer is ycomen in,

Loude sing cuckou!

Groweth seed and bloweth meed,

And springth the wode now.

Sing cuckou!

Ewe bleteth after lamb,

Loweth after calve cow,

Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,

Merye sing cuckou!

Cuckou, cuckou,

Wel singest thou cuckou:

Ne swik thou never now!

–Middle English, anonymous

Summer has come in;

The cuckoo sings loudly!

Seeds grow and the meadow blossoms.

The wood springs new.

Sing cuckoo!

 

The ewe bleats after her lamb.

The cow lows after her calf.

The young bull leaps; the buck darts.

Merrily sings the cuckoo!

Cuckoo, cuckoo

Well do you sing,

Never stop singing.

Inexpertly translated by author from notes in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 1

     .

For Further Reading

An in-depth discussion on translation/meaning/interpretation (from people who have too much time on their hands, or far more interest and knowledge than I.)

Listen to the sound of a cuckoo.

Cuckoo facts.

Cuckooland Museum, a museum about cuckoo clocks.

Word meanings: Cukoo, cuckold, and kooky.

Note: the cuckoo is like the American red-breast robin, a token of Spring, arriving and singing in the British isles around April.  “Sumer” may as equally refer to Spring as well as Summer, just as in America, summer ‘starts’ on Memorial Day weekend before its official calendar and astronomical date.

Picture credit: From Creative Commons Europeana collection, from a manuscript in the National Library of Netherlands, circa 1350.

Cold till Doom!

With the first cold snap in the Northeast, many of us are whimpering like babies. The Midwest has seen a sizable snowstorm, and there has been record-breaking weather, including ferocious winds, throughout England and Northern Ireland. I offer, in honor of the weather, a traditional Irish poem:

 A Cold Night

–attributed to MacLesc of Finn’s household

Translated by Kuno Meyer

Cold till Doom!

The storm is greater than ever;

Each shining furrow is a river,

And a full lake each ford.

 

Big as a great sea is each angry lake,

Each keen thin company a host,

When big as the face of a shield each drop of rain,

Big as a white wether’s* skin each flake.

 

Big as a pit each puddle,

A standing-stone each level, a wood each moor;

No shelter finds the flocks of birds,

White snow reaches right up to the breech.

 

Swift frost has bound the roads

After a sharp struggle round Colt’s standing stone;

The storm has spread on all sides,

So that none say aught but “Cold!”

 *wether = a castrated male sheep

 Collected in:

O’Faolain, Sean. The Silver Branch: A Collection of the Best Old Irish Lyrics, Variously Translated. Freeport, NY: Books For Libraries/Viking Press (Granger Index Reprint Series), 1938, 1968.

 This work was originally published in Kuno Meyer’s 1903 Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter. Works published prior to 1923 are in the Public Domain. If you are the copyright holder and believe that I am in error, please contact me.