Winter workout

Now, after days confined by snow,
I venture out of doors, at last,
To witness Winter’s overthrow.
But where the banks and hedges cast
Their shade, the lanes are smooth as glass,
Reminding me that time must pass
Before we’re free, and every tree
Is dressed in new Spring finery.

The fields, snow-covered inches deep
Gleam in the pale sun at noon;
The woods lie silent, still asleep,
No sign that they’ll awaken soon.
The redwing and the fieldfare
Still haunt the hedgerows; they don’t dare
Leave till we’re free, and every tree
Is dressed in new Spring finery.

The air is eager, nips at skin
On face and fingers as I ride.
This is no day for staying in:
Too long I’ve missed the world outside.
My mind is clear, my spirits soar;
The day will soon come when, once more,
The land is free, and every tree
Is dressed in new Spring finery.  


A workout in two senses: a physical one, in that I’ve finally got back on the road today for the first time since Saturday; and a poetical one, this time inspired by another great literary hero of mine, William Barnes. Born in 1801, Barnes wrote much of his verse in the dialect of his native Dorset, which is also where I spent my formative years. A true polymath – he was a schoolmaster, clergyman, composer, skilled engraver and linguist familiar with over 60 languages – Barnes is generally considered a ‘minor’ poet, though he was revered by Thomas Hardy and WH Auden, among others. Probably his best-known dialect poem, on which this vastly inferior effort of mine is based, is Linden Lea; the famous musical setting was the first composition ever published by Ralph Vaughan Williams.


13 thoughts on “Winter workout

  1. You make me wish I was young enough, and in good enough shape, to get on a bike and ride up Ethel’s road up the slopes of the Zuni Mountains. With luck I might even see a bull elk on such a ride. But, alas, I am no longer in that kind of shape even though I seem like I walk endless miles at work everyday all over the college’s campus.
    I did not remember reading Barnes, but you inspired me to go find his work and read three poems, including “Linden Lea.” I enjoyed the work I read, but I am afraid I did not find him any better poet than a Nick Moore I know about. Still, it was a wonderful visit into the past, and I thank you for it.
    Ethel read this and her comment was, why, that’s music! It’s beautiful.
    I loved the form, of course, the music of the form, the sense of freedom you conveyed describing your ride, and the fields, the woods, the hedgerows, the redwing, and the fieldfare.
    But mostly I liked the idea that. . .
    The day will soon come when, once more,
    The land is free, and every tree
    Is dressed in new Spring finery.

    • Ah, now you’ve got me wishing I had the Zuni Mountains waiting for me out there…as William Blake said: “Great things are done when man and mountain meet.” I wish I were ‘young enough and in good enough shape’ to tackle the high passes of the Alps and Pyrenees! Anyway, if I’ve managed to convey something of the joy I find in spinning round the lanes of Sussex, my work is done. And I’m pleased, too, to have found another reader for William Barnes; a man wrongly overlooked by literary history, in my view. I’d also commend Vaughan Williams’ setting of ‘Linden Lea’ to you; he’s another man often regarded as ‘minor’ or dismissed as a composer of mere ‘light music’, but at his best, he’s brilliant. Thank you both for taking the time to read this; it’s humbling and inspiring to know I’m writing for folks like you. N.

  2. This is a lovely uplifting piece for a cold, grey, freezing Friday morning.

    I suspect Nick you are closer to Spring down in Sussex than we are in Yorkshire – I am looking forward to the day when I can again get out in Golden Acre Park with my camera.

    Ah, no more groans – I am off out soon – to go to the supermarket!!!

    My best to you


    • Don’t envy you the supermarket…we had another dusting of snow last night, but it’s +2C, the sun’s out and the roads are clear, so I shall be back on the bike again today. Whoever invented the Lifa long-sleeved thermal base-layer deserves a Nobel Prize. N.

  3. I love the optimism here, the anticipation of spring – but you have it exactly right: there’s a sense in the air of ‘not quite yet’!
    Beautifully crafted as always and, as Ethel Davis has said, very musical.

    • Thank you, John – I did wonder if my optimism was misplaced when it snowed again last night…happily it wasn’t much and hasn’t lasted, so I was back out today; definitely still ‘not quite yet’ for spring, but I love the fact that there’s no stopping Nature: it WILL come! N.

  4. I love this Nick, yet again, brilliantly crafted(I am learning the language!) Another of your, what I loe to call Olde Worlde poems. I must proclaim my ignorance and say I haven’t heard of William Barnes – I will look him up.

    Christine x

    • Thank you Christine – and do look Barnes up, he deserves as wide a readership as possible. It all sounds a bit quaint now, of course – he hasn’t aged nearly as well as his near-contemporary, Thomas Hardy, has – but there’s something rather moving in the way his writing is so honest and simple yet always beautifully crafted; he was a great scholar and used many obscure poetic forms from Persia and other far-flung places. It’s a mix I really admire – and try, though not always successfully! – to emulate. N.x

    • Hi Ina – and thank you! I can’t take any credit for the metre or rhyme scheme, I’m afraid; they’re the same as William Barnes used for Linden Lea. Then again, they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. All the snow and ice have gone now, I’m pleased to say, so the bike and I are free to roam once more! N.x

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