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Featured Poem: Now Winter Nights Enlarge by Thomas Campion

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 1st November 2010

For anyone who needs a little readjustment in life – and I suspect that would be most of us – time has now been reset. Just by a mere hour, mind, so no need to be too alarmed. Still it would be quite something to have our own personal reset button to rewind time even further, or even to suspend it altogether for a little while when ‘one of those days’ comes along; a shiny little device reassuringly at hand for when everything goes haywire… if only. The biannual changing of the clocks, but most specifically the shifting back of time causes a large amount of fuss. I was always left puzzled and wondered where exactly that elusive hour disappeared to (did it mean we were going back in time? Because that possibility was quite exciting, but seemed rather pointless if the furthest you could venture was the previous 60 minutes); I had an idea that all these hours that disappeared somewhere in the mists had been stored in a kind of lost property box, where they would lie waiting patiently to be consumed.

Turning back time has more significant outcomes than the emergence of a child’s fanciful theories and a great deal of inconvenience and irritation if the altered hours are forgotten about altogether.  Every year there are calls for the quite literal time-honoured tradition to be stopped, to look forward rather than back and to keep daylight switched on that little bit longer; well, it would certainly save on the electricity bills. But apparently refraining from changing the clocks at this time of year would not only make a difference to individual economic circumstances but could add considerably to the coffers of London, make us all healthier and cut back on carbon emissions. Indeed, there are so many advantages to not ‘falling back’ that it seems incomprehensible why we haven’t put a halt to rewinding the time sooner. Yet I have to say I’d be rather disappointed if things did – or more accurately didn’t – change. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just a stickler for habit, or I like the fact that it’s one of those things that keeps the British way of life just that little bit out of the ordinary and eccentric. But I’m also keen to be a champion of sorts for the darker evenings, as I feel a rather unfair amount of flack is directed towards them. Surely they aren’t quite so bad? It makes a nice change to draw the curtains that little bit earlier, to cosy up and enclose yourself amongst the glow of a blazing fire, a few burning candles or if that’s going a bit too far back in time, some lower-energy less harsh artificial lighting. I view the longer nights as a giving an increased opportunity to retreat, relax and get a lot more reading done.

And it appears that my view on the subject correlates with that of Thomas Campion, who seemed perfectly content to welcome in longer evenings with the accompaniment of some ‘well-tuned words’ (as well as more than a bit of wine to help warm the cockles, and the preoccupation of an object of affection to while away the extended hours…oh well, two out of three isn’t bad). Seeing as the clocks will continue to move in each direction, and so now winter nights really are enlarging, we can’t do much except and embrace them.

Now Winter Nights Enlarge

Now winter nights enlarge
The number of their hours,
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze,
And cups o'erflow with wine;
Let well-tuned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love,
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep's leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense
With lovers' long discourse;
Much speech hath some defence,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well;
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,
They shorten tedious nights.

 Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

1 thought on “Featured Poem: Now Winter Nights Enlarge by Thomas Campion

niall says:

haha witty

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