Mar. 10, 2006

The Winter's Spring

by John Clare

FRIDAY, 10 MARCH, 2006
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Poem: "The Winter's Spring" by John Clare from Poems of John Clare's Madness. © Poutledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd Lordan, 1949. Reprinted with permission.

The Winter's Spring

The winter comes; I walk alone,
I want no bird to sing;
To those who keep their hearts their own
The winter is the spring.
No flowers to please—no bees to hum—
The coming spring's already come.

I never want the Christmas rose
To come before its time;
The seasons, each as God bestows,
Are simple and sublime.
I love to see the snowstorm hing;
'Tis but the winter garb of spring

I never want the grass to bloom:
The snowstorm's best in white.
I love to see the tempest come
And love its piercing light.
The dazzled eyes that love to cling
O'er snow-white meadows sees the spring.

I love the snow, the crumpling snow
That hangs on everything,
It covers everything below
Like white dove's brooding wing,
A landscape to the aching sight,
A vast expanse of dazzling light.

It is the foliage of the woods
That winters bring—the dress,
White Easter of the year in bud,
That makes the winter Spring.
The frost and snow his posies bring,
Nature's white spurts of the spring.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1785 that Thomas Jefferson was appointed the American ambassador to France, succeeding Benjamin Franklin.

Before his trip to France, the farthest that Jefferson had traveled from his home in Virginia was to Philadelphia. On the boat ride across the Atlantic, Jefferson passed the time reading Don Quixote with a Spanish dictionary. He also kept an unofficial naval log, tracking the ship's latitude and longitude, the wind and the distance covered.

He had learned French from books, so he had some difficulty communicating when he first arrived. The porters who carried his luggage to shore cheated him out of a good deal of money. He also had to buy a whole new wardrobe, with silver buckles and lace sleeves, so that he could keep up with the current French fashions. But by the time he got to Paris he had fallen in love with the city.

One of the things he loved best about Paris was the book shopping. He said, "I suffer from the malady of bibliomania," and he spent most of his spare time in Paris perusing the bookshops. By the time he got back to the U.S., he had purchased enough books to fill two hundred fifty feet of shelves.

At the time, Paris was one of the most modern cities in the world, and Jefferson loved all the new inventions on display. He went to a restaurant where the food was delivered automatically to your table by a dumbwaiter, and he later installed a similar device in his home at Monticello. He wrote letters home about the new phosphorous matches, which allowed you to light your candle without even getting out of bed. And he saw a demonstration of a new device called a propeller, which created a breeze by spinning. He wondered whether it might be used to invent a flying machine or to propel a boat in water.

He also just loved the French people. In a letter to Abigail Adams, he wrote, "Here we have singing, dancing, laugh, and merriment. ... They have as much happiness in one year as an Englishman in ten."

It was on this day in 1864 that Ulysses S. Grant was named Lieutenant General of the Union armies during the Civil War. Two days later, Grant was promoted again, to General in Chief of the Armies of the United States, and he was given complete control over the Union war effort.

Ulysses S. Grant said, "The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and as often as you can, and keep moving on."

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