Poems and readings for Winter Draws On - Again!
The Burning of leaves by Laurence Binyon
Loveliest of trees, the Cherry Now by A E Housman
Ode to the North-East Wind by Charles Kingsley
The Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot
The Pauper's Christmas Carol By Tom Hood
The wind in a frolic by William Howitt
Oh no, I got a Cold by Pam Ayres
When the Thames freezes Over
Let them eat cake
A foggy day in London Town
On which day should you open the first door on an Advent calendar?

November by Thomas Hood

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.

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! -

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The Burning of leaves by Laurence Binyon

Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire; the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.

The last hollyhock’s fallen tower is dust:
All the spices of June are a bitter reek,
All the extravagant riches spent and mean.
All burns! The reddest rose is a ghost;
Sparks whirl up, to expire in the mist: the wild
Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.

Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,
Time for the burning of days ended and done,
Idle solace of things that have gone before,
Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there:
Let them go to the fire with never a look behind.
The world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.

They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring:
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.

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Loveliest of trees, the Cherry Now by A E Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

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Blow, blow, thou winter wind by William Shakespeare Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind As man’s ingratitude; Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen, Although thy breath be rude. Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: Then, heigh-ho, the holly! This life is most jolly. Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky, That dost not bite so nigh As benefits forgot: Though thou the waters warp, Thy sting is not so sharp As friend remembered not. Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: Then, heigh-ho, the holly! This life is most jolly.
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Ode to the North-East Wind by Charles Kingsley

Welcome, wild North-easter.
Shame it is to see
Odes to every zephyr;
Ne’er a verse to thee.
Welcome, black North-easter!

O’er the German foam;
O’er the Danish moorlands,
From thy frozen home.
Tired we are of summer,
Tired of gaudy glare,
Showers soft and steaming,
Hot and breathless air.
Tired of listless dreaming,
Through the lazy day:
Jovial wind of winter,
Turn us out to play!
Sweep the golden reed-beds;
Crisp the lazy dyke,
Hunger into madness
Every plunging pike.
Fill the lake With wild-fowl,
Fill the marsh with snipe;
While on dreary moorlands
Lonely curlew pipe.

Through the black fir-forest
Thunder harsh and dry,
Shattering down the snow-flakes
Off the curdled sky.
Hark! The brave North-easter!
Breast-high lies the scent,
On by holt and headland,
Over heath and bent.

Chime, ye dappled darlings,
Through the sleet and snow.
Who can over-ride you?
Let the horses go!
Chime, ye dappled darlings,
Down the roaring blast;
You shall see a fox die
Ere an hour be past.
Go! and rest to-morrow,
Hunting in your dreams,
While our skates are ringing
O’er the frozen streams.
Let the luscious South-wind
Breathe in lovers’ sighs,
While the lazy gallants
Basj in ladies’ eyes.
What does he but soften
Heart alike and pen?
‘Tis the hard grey weather
Breeds hard English men.
What’s the soft South-wester?
’Tis the ladies' breeze,
Bringing home their true-loves
Out of all the seas:
But the black North-easter,
Through the snowstorm hurled
Drives our English hearts of oak
Seaward round the world.
Come, as came our fathers,
Heralded by thee,
Conquering from the eastward,
Lords by land and sea.
Come, and strong within us
Stir the Viking’s blood;
Bracing brain and sinew;
Blow, thou wind of Godl

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The Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.
I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death
We returned to our places, these kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

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The Pauper's Christmas Carol By Tom Hood FULL of drink and full of meat, On our SAVIOUR’S natal day, CHARITY’s perennial treat ; Thus I heard a Pauper say :- ‘Ought not I to dance and sing Thus supplied with famous cheer? Heigho! I hardly know- Christmas comes but once a year! 'After labour’s long turmoil, Sorry fare and frequent fast, Two-and-fifty weeks of toil, Pudding-time is come at last! But are raisins high or low, Flour and suet cheap or dear? Heigho! I hardly know- Christmas comes but once a year. ‘Fed upon the coarsest fare Three hundred days and sixty-four But for one on viands rare, just as if I wasn’t poor! Ought not I to bless my stars, Warden, clerk, and overseer? Heigho! I hardly know- Christmas comes but once a year. 'Treated like a welcome guest, One of Nature’s social chain, Seated, tended on, and press’d- But when shall I be press`d again, Twice to pudding, thrice to beef, A dozen times to ale and beer? Heigho! I hardly know, Christmas comes but once a year. 'Come to-morrow how it will; Diet scant and usage rough, Hunger once has had its till, Thirst for once has had enough, But shall I ever dine again ? Or see another feast appear ? Heigho! I only know Christmas comes but once a year. ‘Frozen cares begin to melt, Hopes revive and spirits flow- Feeling as I have not felt Since a dozen months ago- Glad enough to sing a song- To»morrow shall I volunteer? Heigho! I hardly know- Christmas comes but once a year. 'Bright and blessed is the time, Sorrows end and joys begin, While the bells with merry chime Ring the Day of Plenty in! But the happy tide to hail, With a sigh or with a tear, Heigho! I hardly know- Christmas comes but once a year
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The wind in a frolic by William Howitt The wind one morning sprung up from sleep, Saying, ‘Now for a frolic! now for a leap! Now for a mad-cap, galloping chase! I’ll make a commotion in every place!’ So it swept with a bustle right through a great town, Creaking the signs, and scattering down Shutters, and whisking, with merciless squalls, Old women’s bonnets and gingerbread stalls. There never was heard a much lustier shout, As the apples and oranges trundled about, And the urchins, that stand with their thievish eyes For ever on watch, ran off each with a prize. Then away to the field it went blustering and humming And the cattle all wondered whatever was coming, It plucked by their tails the grave, matronly cows, And tossed the colts’ manes all about their brows, Till, offended at such a familiar salute, They all turned their backs, and stood sullenly mute. So on it went, capering and playing its pranks: Whistling with reeds on the broad river’s banks, Puffing the birds as they sat on the spray Or the traveller grave on the king’s highway. It was not too nice to hustle the bags Of the beggar, and flutter his dirty rags: ’Twas so bold, that it feared not to play its joke With the doctor’s wig, or the gentleman’s cloak. Through the forest it roared, and cried gaily ‘Now, You sturdy old oaks, I’ll make you bow!’ And it made them bow without more ado, Or it cracked their great branches through and through. Then it rushed like a monster on cottage and farm, Striking their dwellers with sudden alarm; And they ran out like bees in a midsummer swarm. There were dames with their ’kerchiefs tied over their caps, To see if their poultry were free from mishaps, The turkeys they gobbled, the geese screamed aloud, And the hens crept to roost in a terrified crowd, There was rearing of ladders, and logs laying on Where the thatch from the roof threatened soon to be gone. (But the wind had passed on, and had met in a lane, With a schoolboy who panted and struggled in vain, For it tossed him and twirled him, then passed, and he stood, With his hat in a pool, and his shoe in the mud.) (There was a poor man, hoary and old Cutting the heath on the open wold - The strokes of his bill were faint and few, Ere this frolicsome wind upon him blew, But behind him, before him, about him it came, And the breath seemed gone from his feeble frame, So he sat him down with a muttering tone, Saying, ‘Plague on the wind! was the like ever known? But nowadays every wind that blows Tells one how weak an old man grows!’) But away went the wind in its holiday glee; And now it was far on the billowy sea, And the lordly ships felt its staggering blow, And the little boats darted to and fro. But lo! it was night, and it sank to rest, On the sea-bird’s rock, in the gleaming west, Laughing to think, in its fearful fun How little of mischief it had done.
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1 Oh no, I got a Cold by Pam Ayres I am sitting on the sofa, By the fire and staying in, Me head is free of comfort And me nose is free of skin Me friends have run for cover, They have left me pale and sick With me pockets full of tissues And me nostrils full of Vick. That bloke in the telly adverts, He’s supposed to have a cold, He has a swig of whatnot And he drops off, good as gold, His face like snowing harvest Slips into sweet repose, Well, I bet this tortured breathing Never whistled down his nose. I burnt me bit of dinner Cause I’ve lost me sense of smell, But then, I couldn’t taste it, So that worked out very well, I’d buy some, down the cafe, But I know that at the till, A voice from work will softly say “I thought that you were ill”. So I’m wrapped up in a blanket With me feet up on a stool, I’ve watched the telly programmes And the kids come home from school, But what I haven’t watched for Is any sympathy, Cause all you ever get is: “Oh no, keep away from me!” Medicinal discovery, It moves in mighty leaps, It leapt straight past the common cold And gave it us for keeps. Now I’m not a fussy woman, There’s no malice in me eye But I wish that they could cure the common cold. That’s all. Goodbye

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The Fight of the Year – Roger Mc Gough And there goes the bell for the third month and Winter comes out of his corner looking groggy Spring leads with a left to the head followed by a sharp right to the body daffodils primroses crocuses snowdrops lilacs violets pussy willow Winter can’t take much more punishment and Spring shows no signs of tiring tadpoles squirrels baalambs badgers bunny rabbits mad march hares horse and hounds Spring is merciless Winter won’t go the whole twelve rounds bobtail clouds scallywag winds the sun the pavement artist in every town a left to the chin and Winter’s down! tomatoes radish cucumber onions beetroot celery and any amount of lettuce for dinner Winter’s out for the count Spring is the winner!

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When, in centuries past, London was hit by severe winter weather, it was possible for the Thames to freeze so hard that the city’s traders could hold a fair on the ice. But the Frost Fairs, as they were called, came about only because of London Bridge. When the ‘new’ stone bridge was first built in 1176, replacing the old wooden version, its 19 narrow arches slowed the flow of water down so much that the river was able to freeze when temperatures dropped. Although the residents ventured on to the frozen river many times, the first real Frost Fair was not held until 1564, when stalls, sideshows and many forms of entertainment, including merry-go-rounds and donkey races were set up on the ice, which remained frozen for two months. The river froze many times after that, Fairs although the Frost took place only four more times, in 1684, 1716, 1740 and l8l4. The last fair began on 1 February, and stretched from Blackfriars to Three Crane Stairs. A ‘road’ took shape across the river from bank to bank and was temporarily named City Road. Stalls, sideshows and other entertainments were set up, and even a printing press or two was installed to print souvenirs of the great fair. The ice was not entirely safe; one or two people who strayed from the centre of activities fell through cracks in the ice, and a large piece of ice broke off near London Bridge, carrying away a man and two boys. Luckily they lay on the ice, and were soon rescued by some Billingsgate fishermen. Apart from this, the fair passed without incident, lasting a full week until rain set in and the ice began to thaw. When the old London Bridge was replaced in 1831, its new design no longer slowed down the river’s flow, and that was the end of the Frost Fairs.

Let them eat cake
On 5 January every year, the cast and crew of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane eat Baddeley Cake in memory of Richard Baddeley, a successful actor. On his death in 1794, he left a sum of money in his will to provide a cake for Twelfth Night every year, as well as wine to drink with it. So as not to invite bad luck, the theatre still maintains the tradition, and the cake is duly eaten every year on 5 january. It is carried into the Green Room by attendants wearing eighteenth century costume, and the company drinks to the health of their benefactor.

A foggy day in London Town
On 5 December 1952, a thick yellow fog descended on London, acrid enough to make the residents’ eyes water. Thanks to a warm air front that settled over the Thames valley, the fog hung in the city for four or five days, as the warm air trapped the fog underneath it. Four thousand people died of lung-related problems during the following month, and 12,000 people died overall in a four-month period following the fog, although these figures were denied by the authorities. London had had a history of dense fogs since the start of the industrial revolution, but this one was by far the worst. The fog was so thick that emergency services had to drive around with a policeman walking in front, brandishing a flare. The fog seeped into homes and buildings, and coated everything it touched with a grey film. A performance of La Traviata was stopped because the audience could no longer see the stage. At that time, Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy, so the government was exporting the good coal overseas, leaving Britons to burn poorer, smoky coal on their fires. London also had three major power stations in built-up areas, burning coal to produce electricity. The dense fogs continued until the Clean Air Act was finally passed in 1956. It seems rather ironic that the coal tax, imposed to finance the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666, was placed on the one substance that made the reconstructed city almost uninhabitable.

On which day should you open the first door on an Advent calendar?
Advent usually starts in November, not on 1 December. In the Western Christian tradition, Advent begins on Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which also begins the Church’s year. This can occur on any day between 27 November and 3 December, so there’s only a one-in-seven chance of it falling on 1 December. As a result, Advent varies in length from twenty-two to twenty-eight days. The next time Advent Sunday falls on 1 December will be in 2013. For five of the next seven years, Advent will begin in November. Not that anyone seems to care. Despite their name, ‘Advent’ calendars are now firmly established as a secular custom and the first door is opened (or the first chocolate consumed) on 1 December, a date whose main function is to remind us that there are only twenty-four shopping days to Christmas. In the UK and USA, a quarter of all personal spending for the year takes place in December. Counting down the days to Christmas grew up among German Lutherans in the early nineteenth century. At first, they would either light a candle every day or cross off each day on a blackboard. Then, in the 1850s, German children started to draw their own home-made Advent calendars. It wasn’t until 1908 that Gerhard Lang (1881~1974), of the Bavarian publishers Reichhold & Lang, devised a commercial version. It was a piece of card accompanied by a packet of twenty-four small illustrations that could be glued on for each day of the season. Because it wasn't practical to manufacture a different number of stickers each year, this was the moment that Advent became a standard twenty-four days long and the tradition of starting the calendar on 1 December began. By 1920 Lang had introduced doors that opened, and his invention was spreading across Europe. It was known as the ‘Munich Christmas Calendar '. Lang's business failed in the 1930s - Hitler’s close association with Munich can't have helped - but after the war, in 1946, another German publisher, Richard Sellmer from Stuttgart, revived the idea. He focused his efforts on the US market, setting up a charity endorsed by President Eisenhower and his family. In 1953 he acquired the US patent, and the calendar became an immediate success, with Sellmer earning the title of ‘the General Secretary of Father Christmas’ His company still produces more than a million calendars a year in twenty-live countries. The first Advent calendars containing chocolate were produced by Cadbury in 1958.
Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning ‘arrival’, and it was meant to be a season of fasting and contemplation, in preparation for the feast of Christmas. Despite this, it often started with the raucous celebration of St Andrew’s Day on 30 November. ‘Tandrew' customs included schoolchildren locking their teachers out of the classroom, organised squirrel hunts and cross-dressing. An 1851 account describes how ‘women might be seen walking about in male attire, while men and boys clothed in female dress visited each other's cottages, drinking hot "eldern wine", the staple beverage of the season.

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