A wrinkled crabbed man they picture thee,
Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
As the long moss upon the apple-tree;
Blue-lipt, an icedrop at thy sharp blue nose,
Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way
Plodding alone through sleet and drifting snows.
They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,*
Old Winter! seated in thy great armed chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;
Or circled by them as thy lips declare
Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night,
Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire,
Or taste the old October brown and bright.
by Robert Southey (1774 – 1843)
Romantic English Poet
Poet Laureate from 1813 until his death
Author of The Three Bears Fairy Tale
*Choose any version of A Christmas Carol, and you'll see that Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870) appears to have followed Southey's description of a jollier Old Winter to the letter in his depiction of The Ghost of Christmas Present:
In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.In yet another interesting comparison, Dickens seems to be channeling Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), particularly when he envisions the Ghost of Christmas Past as a candle flame: " . . . the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm."
“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know me better, man!”
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”
Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air.
Likewise, in Frost at Midnight, Coleridge, in his "abstruser musings," is carried back to the past by a "thin blue flame" a "fluttering stranger." Just like Scrooge, he follows the flame, recalling his birth-place, his long - ago school days, his stern instructor, his fear of abandonment, his beloved sister.
Wishing you an intropective New Year's Eve
with time to muse before the fire, re-reading Dickens
and sharing a cup of "old October brown and bright."
Maybe in one of these rustic yule-tide
reindeer mugs, perfect for the occasion!