Monday 7 November 2016

Winter's Day

11th-century calendar from Christ Church, Canterbury (BL Arundel 155, f. 7) 
with the beginning of winter marked on 7 November

In some Anglo-Saxon calendars, such as the one above, 7 November is considered to be the first day of winter. The Old English Menologium calls today 'Winter's Day', imagining winter as a warrior who comes to enslave the earth with frost's fetters:

And þy ylcan dæge ealra we healdað
sancta symbel þara þe sið oððe ær
worhtan in worulde willan drihtnes.
Syþþan wintres dæg wide gangeð
on syx nihtum, sigelbeortne genimð
hærfest mid herige hrimes and snawes,
forste gefeterad, be frean hæse,
þæt us wunian ne moton wangas grene,
foldan frætuwe.

And on the same day [November 1] we keep
the feast of All Saints, of those who recently or long ago
worked in the world the will of the Lord.
After that comes Winter’s Day, far and wide,
after six nights, and seizes sun-bright autumn
with its army of ice and snow,
fettered with frost by the Lord's command,
so that the green fields may no longer stay with us,
the ornaments of the earth.

I wrote about this, and much more Anglo-Saxon poetry on the subject of winter, in this post.

And what better day to get hold of a copy of this beautiful book, which contains my translation of the 14th-century poem 'Winter wakeneth all my care', among many other wintry things? Something to cheer you up if you get too wintercearig over the next few months...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've just stumbled across your excellent blog via a link in History Today. I like anniversaries and important dates so I was intrigued and a bit bothered, on glancing at your Danish invasion pages, that I'd missed so many over the last few years. Thus I was very pleased to be able to learn then celebrate the first day of winter today, and it's appropriately cold enough to light a coal fire and stare at the flames. In the five years since I retired I've put lots of energy into scowling at young people and visiting interesting places in England; I think your blog will make a good and welcome companion in the future. Thank you and best wishes