The Year’s Midnight

The sun set, if you’re curious, at half-past three today. We’ve been sitting in darkness ever since, writing lots and drinking tea. We made the mistake of going out at midday (twilight?) and got caught in torrential rain for our trouble. We should have known better than to risk the excursion without a hat. But the thing about St. Andrews is that it does very particular, almost localised weather. It wasn’t raining, looking out the french windows at the back of the house. It was raining out the front.
Tonight we’re drinking spiced apple tea. It smells of what we’d call apple cider -the non-alcoholic cider particular to Canada, with clovers, cinnamon and nutmeg in. The flavour of it is lovely, but sadly it’s not designed for a tea-infuser. The pieces of dried apple and clove are too big. No matter, we’re just going to have to drink it in vats, and that’s not something we’ll complain about.
Here, as promised, on the year’s midnight, is John Donne’s ‘St Lucy’s Day.’ Never was there a more apt summation of the fleeting Scottish winter day.
A Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day
Joh Donne
‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
                The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
         For I am every dead thing,
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
                For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
         I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
         Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood
                Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
         Were I a man, that I were one
         I needs must know; I should prefer,
                If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.
But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
         At this time to the Goat is run
         To fetch new lust, and give it you,
                Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.
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