I recently read and was hugely impressed by Alexandra Harris’s book Weatherland about the ways in which the English weather has influenced and inspired painters and writers. So here’s a lovely poem about English weather in the, often dark and dreary, month of November.
November Skies by John Freeman
Than these November skies
Is no sky lovelier. The clouds are deep;
Into their grey the subtle spies
Of colour creep,
Changing that high austerity to delight,
Till ev’n the leaden interfolds are bright.
And, where the cloud breaks, faint far azure peers
Ere a thin flushing cloud again
Shuts up that loveliness, or shares.
The huge great clouds move slowly, gently, as
Reluctant the quick sun should shine in vain,
Holding in bright caprice their rain.
And when of colours none,
Not rose, nor amber, nor the scarce late green,
Is truly seen, —
In all the myriad grey,
In silver height and dusky deep, remain
Faint purple flushes of the unvanquished sun.
John Freeman (1880 – 1929) worked in insurance in London, until giving up that job to be a full-time writer. He published volumes of poetry and essays and was a close friend of poet Walter de la Mare.
Freeman was described by someone who knew him as “tall, gangling, ugly and solemn”. In 1920 he won the Hawthornden Prize for Poetry.
I think this is a beautiful poem, with its rather unusual word order and wonderful musicality in its varied rhythm and rhyme. And even though it is describing grey weather, it is such a wonderfully positive poem ending as it does with the words “unvanquished sun”.
November in the northern hemisphere can be a challenging month. It is not cheered by the festivities of December, and because it is early winter, the months of cold and darkness seem to stretch on forever. But Freeman finds a beauty in the season and notes the way colour creeps into the “leaden interfolds” of the clouds and captures the movement of the “huge great clouds” before rain. He makes us see the varied tones of grey – leaden, silver, deep grey – and makes us feel that they can be perhaps even more beautiful than the brighter rose and amber of a sunnier day.
Listen to a reading of it by TP Burrow, or try a sung version.
Sadly, I cannot find a Youtube recording of it to share with you. You will just have to read it aloud to yourself.
Do you share my enjoyment of this poem? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Poems New and Old by John Freeman
Poems New and Old by John Freeman. Free downloadable version in kindle or epub format.
Poetry collections by John Freeman, narrated by various readers.
All Poetry – John Freeman