Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This is one of those classic winter-in-Tennessee days when the weather can't quite decide what it wants to do. It started sleeting in the wee hours, then it rained, then it sleeted a bit more, now in late afternoon it's gloomy but dry. The sky's got an inscrutable look, though, as if to say, "Well, I might pelt you with ice or I might not. Dare ya to drive up to Nashville for that Slow Food dinner you've been looking forward to--you're not scared to skate home, are you?" This morning I rounded a curve on a country road and found 2 cars that had wiped out on a patch of ice. I braked as gently as I could, but I still fishtailed and nearly wound up in the ditch myself. So it feels a little like tempting fate to go out again, but I think we will. I've been bugging Dave to go with me to one of these dinners for ages, and who knows when he'll be home for one again. Wish us luck.

The weather's not the only thing that's indecisive. I had a real essay for the blog outlined in my head, but I have dithered around all day, too unfocused to write it or to accomplish much else. Tomorrow, I promise. Meanwhile, here's an oddly prescient poem from a couple of centuries back.

January, 1795

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

by Mary Robinson (1758-1800) via Poetry Foundation

Photo of Allegories of the Months: January (mid-13th century, Stone, Basilica di San Marco, Venice) from Web Gallery of Art

1 comment:

chayaruchama said...

True now as it was then.