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Assorted Wildlife, Birds, Language, Squirrels

On the Approach of Winter


Quand je lou tans refroidier
voi et geleir
et les arbres despoillier
et iverneir
adonc me voil aaizier
et sejorneir
a boen feu leiz lou brazier,
et a vin cleir
en chade mason
par lou tans fellon;
ja n’ait il perdon
ki n’amet sa garison.

Although my graduate work had to do with Medieval English Literature, and especially medieval mystics, I challenged myself a bit with a course on medieval French Literature, reading in the original Francais Ancien, or Old French, which like most of the Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish etc) evolved from Vulgar Latin, the spoken form of the language for most of the western Roman Empire. The above is an example of a poem in francais ancien, ostensibly celebrating the cozy longuer of winter. But the second stanza provides a sharp contrast to the warmth of the hearth. I’ll let you discover the origins of the poem and its remaining stanzas for yourself at Dr Albrecht Classen’s web page, on the University of Arizona web site (it’s the third work from the top).

Speaking of the approach of winter

I heard a favorite work of mine the other day on the radio: Tchaikovsky’s first symphony, titled variously as Winter Dreams or Winter Daydreams (the actual Russian may translate to ‘daydreams,’ but I do prefer the translation I knew in high school, ‘winter dreams.’) In the days of record albums, this was one of mine that was well-worn, a Deutsche Grammaphon recording with an album cover as equally evocative as the music. Have a listen, at least to the first movement, if possible in the same setting as described in the poem above (youtube recording).


I like especially the titles for the first two movements of the symphony:  Dreams of a Winter Journey (allegro tranquillo), and Land of Desolation, Land of Mists ( Adagio cantabile ma non tanto)

More new roommates

I'm no fool. It's much warmer in here!

I’m no fool. It’s much warmer in here!


During the spring and summer we are so busy with the bees that the other insects hardly get any photoshoots. But in the winter, while the bees stay outside other creatures make their way in. You may recall in a previous post my writing about queen wasps. Another avid house dweller in winter is the butterfly. This one and its companion have alternated between fluttering in the window and sleeping in the folds of the curtains for the past few weeks. I am pretty sure they are a pair of red admirals (vanessa atalanta).  It’s hard to know what to do for best. If left inside, they are disturbed by the heat and the light; if they are let out and do not find a place soon enough, they might die. So open the window, or leave it closed?  According to UK Butterflies,

The best thing to do is to be “cruel to be kind”. One option is to place the butterfly in a cold and dark environment and out of the way of predators, such as in a log pile, an outhouse, or a hollow tree. Alternatively, on the next sunny day that is sufficiently warm, release the individual outside so that it can find a more suitable location in which to hibernate itself.

We wimped out of the decision with one of them and let it fly out of the window of its own accord. The other disappeared somewhere into the house. Maybe to emerge in spring?

Now you see me...

Now you see me…


But the bees are not to be outdone

Yes, they are behind chicken wire and mouse-guarded, but somehow the bees always make their presence felt. This message was posted on one of the beekeeping association web pages:

Cambridge Chorale, the choir I sing with, has just released a new CD called ‘Songs and Sonnets’, of music with Shakespearean texts, and one of the tracks is ‘Where the bee sucks, there suck I’, complete with bee noises from the sopranos. You can hear the track here:http://www.cambridgechorale.org.uk/…/songsandsonnets/sample… – more info on the CD athttp://cambridgechorale.org.uk/recordings/songsandsonnets/ . We’ve also got a Christmas concert on Saturday evening, 7.30, Great St Mary’s – no bees at that one, just carols and other Christmassy stuff.

Sucking bees (a variation on an expletive not uncommon around this house during this past swarmy summer), who’d a thunk it?



There’s lots of news about birds, squirrels, and rats–yes, rats!–but I’ll save that for next time.


Photo Attributions

1. Winter Frost or Groupe d’arbres givres Decazeville 2006):  By Fraxinus pseudo d’Yves Fraysse (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

2. For album cover, see http://www.discogs.com/Peter-Tschaikowksy-Boston-Symphony-Orchestra-Michael-Tilson-Thomas-Symphonie-Nr-1-g-moll-In-G-Minor-/master/303250

Translation of first stanza of poem

When I see the weather
turning cold
and starting to freeze
and the trees going bare
and winter coming,
then I want to ease up
and spend time
with a good fire beside the brazier,
and a glass of claret
in a warm house
during foul weather ;
may he have no pardon,
who won’t take care of himself.

Can you pick out what happens in the next stanza?

Je ne voil pas chivachier
et feu bouteir
et si haz mout garroier
et cris leveir
et grans proies acoillier
et gent robeir;

asseis i a fol mestier
a tot gasteir;

a poc d’acheson
se prannent baron
par consoil bricon
muevent guerres et tansons.



6 thoughts on “On the Approach of Winter

  1. I like the idea of keeping your new roomies in until there’s a sunny day and then letting them free. I’ve had the same issues, though I live a warmer place. It’s hard, this business of caring about wildlife that cohabits with us. Or, is it the other way around?

    Posted by Tina | December 8, 2014, 5:45 pm
  2. Well, the second verse of the poem is very different and a great anti war rant.

    I dont know the First Symphony well, I have a soft spot for the Second, partly because of all the emotion but also partly because of where I have heard it live.

    So, are you a member of the Cambridge Chorale?

    Posted by philipstrange | December 9, 2014, 4:37 pm
  3. Winter has an exquisite beauty in picture and verse – inspiring post! With the year really frosty and sparkly, I hope you have a wonderful festive season with family and friends 🙂

    Posted by Emma Sarah Tennant | December 20, 2014, 2:32 am

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