The cold feast day
The Eve of St. Agnes was last night, and it was cold and moonlit. This morning the grass was frozen and the wind was bitter. Our hands turned numb and stung, though we were gloved as we dug the garden. Fog descended, and freezing cold rose out of the ground.
Keats captures the weather well in his Eve of St Agnes, which he finished in January 1819. Global warming had not yet set in so Keats wrote -
ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold: . . .
Keats's poem tells a supernatural story. I'm not fond of this type of tale, and I'm too tired to explain what I'm about to say, but having experienced silvery frosts, wild deer apparently reassured by my voice, sunsets of transparent green, flights of bells, shadowy moonlit fields and the delicate radiance of morning shimmering, I am here to say there are things in Britain that are in this world but not of it.
The coldness of my hands and the pale and opalescent sea flints that litter the soil I dig speak of this world, but I am aware I stand on an ancient world once buried under the sea.
The misty light, doubtless explained by marine clouds, solar radiance at the 57th parallel and the Gulf Stream, creates a sense of eternity, as if we moved backwards and forwards through time as readily as a rider crosses a beach.
But once looked at, noticed, observed, examined, commented on - it vanishes!