I used to loath November, but now feel quite nostalgic about the long lost fogs and mists of yesteryear: ‘When vapours rolling down a valley Made a lonely scene more lonesome’ – as WW put it in The Prelude.
So I am going to enjoy today’s fog with a walk remembering my mum and dad (my sister will remember their names at an All Souls’ Day Service back home), and with a spot of gardening, picturing them, as mum waited patiently for the frost to touch the parsnips, ready for dad to dig for Christmas Dinner.
Mum used to love Thomas Hood’s November poem and I wish I could find the copy she wrote out for me on lined notepaper all those years ago. But here is the poem copied from the inter-net and also the famous fog passage from Bleak House.
There is also a link to the walk linking Purgatory and Paradise (near Slad and Painswick) at the end of the passage from Dickens. There is nowhere else in the country with these place names so closely linked – an atmospheric walk for this month and time of year.
by Thomas Hood
No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk—no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view—
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–
No “t’other side the way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people—
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No park–no ring–no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.
Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar.
Walking a Metaphor: May 2013 on the blog.