Home Life Works Articles Contact

Anna Jane Vardill

Winter in the Country to Winter in the Town

Wondrous dull, I confess!—while the north-wind is blowing,
And nothing on earth but the icicles growing,
I’ll write to you, coz;—tho’ ’tis scarcely in reason
To send you a letter so much out of season;—
So distant we live, it had better be undone—
’Tis six months at least ere ’twill reach you in London!
While you at the Wells, the Parade, or Pavillion,
Send cards to a thousand and bow to a million,
Suck health from gas pipes, or platina and wire,
Or go out to sea in a chariot of fire,
I pine on plumb gruel, oat-cake, and salt salmon,
With chilblains and charcoal, mince-pies and backgammon,
The wide chimney smoking—the frozen boys sneezing,
Red squires and grey gossips the ale-posset seizing;
While nuts on the hearth false or true hearts discover,
And Maud hides the mistletoe-branch from her lover—
To what would a rhymer compare us?—in verity,
Poor me to Adversity—you to Prosperity.
 Now mark, and don’t frown—if I’m well understood,
How easy my simile is to make good:
You open your reign in the glory of June,
Like Fortune’s young heiress in Life’s summer noon;
With new vis-a-vis and barouche you come out
To park and to play, to court-gala and rout!
O’er caps, cards, and concerts, unrivall’d preside,
Of Pleasure the queen and of Fashion the guide,
Rose-cream at your toilet, gilt cards at your door,
Of noddees two thousand—of friends fifty score—
At one, all the news from Spitzbergen and Plata—
At two, Albemarle-street, gas, granite, and strata—
At three, the pavé, the bazaar, or the Row—
At four, half a glance at the new crape rouleau;
At five—mercy, heav’n!—is no new novel come?
Well, drive to Frescati’s—Bell’s—Colburn’s—and Home!
Then, then comes the glory!—on your Winter night,
What garlands, what perfumes, what stars of new light!
All midsummer’s flowers at your feet, and of all
The fruits of all seasons, the prime at your call——
O Fortune!—how near on thy feathery throne
Art thou to the pageant of Winter in ton!
So brief and so frail are the dear-purchas’d flow’rs
That strew thy gay carpet and cling to thy bow’rs—
Unwillingly forc’d the dull pageant to deck,
A mock’ry to-day, and to-morrow a wreck;
Most bright when most joyless, as when the sun goes,
The west all its gold, rouge, and foppery shows:
And thou in the toys by thy wantonness bought;
Like Asia’s poor fly in the flow’r-cup art caught;
Pomp, gay and full-blown, spreads its soft silky snare,
And Peace, like the emerald insect, dies there!—
I, plain rustic Winter, my cottage-fire trim,
Like haggard Adversity meagre and grim,
Bare thorns round my pathway, hoar frosts on my thatch,
But only the friends of my heart lift the latch!
Friends fearless of storms as the holly that twines
Round Industry’s hearth when the yule-faggot shines.
The straw roof is dear while the tempest blows loud,
And Reason sees comforts in Poverty’s cloud;
Slow, silent, and soft as the snow-wreaths they fall,
But swiftly they spread till they whiten o’er all!
Prosperity’s slave, shallow Fashion loves thee,
Brisk Industry, Wisdom, and Health, follow me:
Of Reason the fruit, and of Pleasure the flow’r,
Owe ripeness and bloom to my rigorous hour.
A season of shadows, of blights, and of frost,
Comes next, when the pomp of thy revels is lost;
While I for the sunshine of summer prepare,
And open Life’s garden, by me made more fair:
Gay Spring follows me with her hyacinth-crown,
But dull sighing Autumn ends Winter in Town.


The European Magazine, Vol. 74, September 1818, pp. 259-260