Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Blow, blow, thou winter wind

Time again for a bit of the Bard. This morning my windchimes were tinkling merrily in the increasingly strong February breeze. At this moment, it doesn't actually feel like winter, since it's quite warm outside, but the weather people assure me that's about to change. Again. a

On a blustery February day, what could be more fitting than one of Shakespeare's songs? This one is from As You Like It, Act II, scene 7, and is given to Lord Amiens, one of Duke Senior's company who sings to the exiled Duke and his friends just after Orlando brings his servant, Adam, to join the company. Orlando and Adam have just expressed their gratitude for the kind reception by Duke Senior (despite Orlando's rather rude intrusion in the first place) and for sharing what food he has with them. The song (by negative implication) praises their gratitude, and also indirectly reminds the audience that the group are in exile in the wilds because of the ingratitude and malice of Duke Senior's brother. As You Like It is one of the plays I covered during Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month, and you can read a shortish summary of the play here.

In the following song, Shakespeare compares the harsh, "rude" winter wind to man's ingratitude and to turning one's back on a friend, both of which are seen as far worse than the biting wind.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
by William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.


A word about the form: The verses are written in iambic trimeter (taDUM taDUM taDUM), using the rhyme scheme AABCCB. The chorus is written in dactyls - a poetic foot consisting of three syllables, one stressed and two unstressed (DUMtata DUMtata). There are four feet per line, making the chorus dactylic tetrameter, if you care to know such things. (Probably you don't.)

Here is a truly lovely version I found while skimming through YouTube. It's done by a woman named Molly Bauckham, who has a CD out called "Maid on the Shore". You can find further information on her YouTube posts and channel.



Of course, I could as easily have gone with a different song, For the Rain, it Raineth Every Day, but I just put that one up two weeks ago.


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