Tea for a Winter Night

We opened the Advent calendar to an orange tea packet today, prompting the revelation that in spite of all these herbals, blacks and that one oolong, we hadn’t yet had a rooibos tea. There’s still time for this to all balance out, but it’s a glance we wouldn’t mind seeing redressed going forward.

Today’s rooibos is Alpine Punch, a staple of ours. It’s flavoured with almonds and brings back memories of damp, Scottish afternoons when we drank it to stave off the cold and put some heat back into our fingers. The almonds are a lovely compliment to the rooibos and give the tea a toasted flavour that tastes glorious.

To go with it, have a glorious poem by Hardy. We know, we know, we’ve used it before. But every Advent calendar has that one, recurrent thing. In children’s calendars its the St Nicholas, but it might be a particular chocolate, or tea, or, as in this instance, that one beloved poem. We’re writing by grey, wintery light, and it elevates the atmosphere like nothing else. Without further ado, here’s The Darkling Thrush.

The Darkling Thrush
Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outlet,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Wash shrunken, hard and dry,
And every creature upon earth
Seemed desolate as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimeted;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
With blast-beruffeld plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolling
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
This happy good-night air,
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
And I was unaware.

And remember, should you be overtaken by whimsy, pick a favourite hymn tune and set it to music. The thrush would almost certainly appreciate it.

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