Wednesday, March 01, 2023

A.A. Milne and Richard Jefferies on the February summer

A.A. Milne, not for the last time walking the narrow path between humour and tweeness, did not trust February:

February comes just when we are sick of winter, and therefore she may not be wintry. Wishing to do her best, she ventures her spring costume, crocus and primrose and daffodil days; days when the first faint perfume of mint is blown down the breezes, and one begins to wonder how the lambs are shaping. 

Is that the ideal February? Ah no! For we cannot be deceived. We know that spring is not here; that March is to come with its frosts and perchance its snows, a worse March for the milder February, a plunge back into the winter which poor February tried to flatter us was over.

Such a February is a murderer - an accessory to the murders of March. She lays the ground-bait for the victims. Out pop the stupid little flowers, eager to be deceived (one could forgive the annuals, but the perennials ought to know better by now), and down comes March, a roaring lion, to gobble them up.

That's from an essay of his called 'No Flowers by Request'. You will find in a collection of his - Not That it Matters - published in 1920. 

Richard Jefferies, a naturalist rather than a gardener, put it more exactly:

It is the February summer that comes, and lasts a week or so between the January frosts and the east winds that rush through the thorns. The sun is warm, and the still air genial, the sky only dotted with a few white clouds. 

That's from his 1882 essay 'Notes on Landscape Painting', which is included in the collection of Jefferies essays The Life of the Fields. This first appeared in 1884.

My reason for quoting these two is to say how much I appreciated the good weather a couple of weeks ago. Winter sunlight is wonderful for photography - the Market Harborough house above looks at its finest, yet the tree shadow suggests it might be involved in a classic of folk horror.

Meanwhile Jefferies continues to surprise me with the acuity of the observations he throws out in passing.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

With T.S.E., I still think April is the cruellest month.