And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

lørdag 4. juni 2011

Season of Mists

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
- To Autumn, John Keats

If I had been asked half a year ago what I would associate with England, one of my first answers would be mist and fog. The image of brick houses swaddled in slates of mist hovering close to the ground at midnight, dimming the streetlights and houselights, is to me synonymous with Britain in general and English towns in particular. This image was basically what met me when I looked out of the hotel window my first night in England, and it dominated the landscape all the way form London to York, sometimes less heavy, but nonetheless an almost constant presence that created an atmosphere of nostalgia. Although this was only my second trip to England it created, I think in hindsight, the fields draped in fog gave me a sense of something familiar, something that made this whole experience less strange, less alien. I might, of course, be merely conjuring this in the process of writing, but I recall that, as the train cut through the English countryside, I did not have the nerves which, given the situation, would have been completely justified.

The first couple of days in York seemed to confirm my idea of England as a mist-covered entity, and already on the day I arrived in the town I was getting convinced that this was England's default condition. However, throughout my stay I realised that the weather was mostly sunny and pleasantly warm, even in January, and I had to adjust my view of England, at least weatherwise. Days in the sun were on the whole numerous, and even when the weather was cloudy or when there was a certain amount of rain, it rarely developed into outright nasty weather.

I was therefore not very surprised when a friend of mine told me yesterday that the weather in York is currently very warm and sunny with degrees fluctuating between 20 and 25 degrees celsius. I was of course happy on the behalf of all my friends in York, but it also underlined the very dismal weather we've had in Trondheim the last couple of weeks. In this period I have rarely seen the sun except as a white blur curtained by grey clouds, or, on moderate days, as a change of golden hue as the light dies along the wall of my room. Only occasionally there has been blue skies in my waking hours, for the most part the world has been wrapped in a foggy cloth the same colour as crows' backs.

Consequently I have decided to present some pictures from England showing the more gloomy days of my stay, in order to counterweight the current paradisiacal condition of York and to nourish the hope that after days of darkness we may walk again in sunlight. 

I try to see through the disguise,
But the clouds were there,
Blocking out the sun 
- There is an end, The Greenhornes

These pictures are taken on the main campus of the University of York. This hideous architectural monstrosity is where I had to conduct my pilgrimage whenever I needed books from the main library, and I tried to venture as seldom as I could. As mist goes these pictures are nothing compared to what a friend of mine documented, but these will have to do for now.

Dew-cloth, dream drapery,
And napkin spread by fays
- Mist, Henry David Thoreau

Let thickest mists in envy master here,
- O that no day would ever more appear, Lady Mary Wroth

Regardless of weather I find York Minster to be very evocative and awe-inspiring. Mist veiling the old structure only enhances that sense of mystery which to religious people is an intrinsic part of the church building and its symbolism. Particularly the gargoyles and the other stone carvings are given an air of something otherwordly, as if the mist made them come to life, peering with sentient eyes into our world.

Scarce seen in the twilight garden if gloom insist
- Love in a mist, Algernon Charles Swinburne

(...) in the night seasons.
- Psalm 16:7

At midnight on the Emperor's pavement flit
Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,
Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
Where blood-begotten spirits come
And all complexities of fury leave,
Dying into a dance,
An agony of trance,
An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.
- Byzantium, William Butler Yeats

 Season of mists
- To Autumn, John Keats

From concave stormlight a freak suggestion...
- Fantasia on Horbury, Geoffrey Hill

Fortunately the sun appeared over Durham later on in the day. The pictures above were taken around noon, but when I emerged from Durham Cathedral the sun was shining pleasantly, far too pleasantly to fit to this somber theme.

Sob, heavy world,
Sob as you spin
Mantled in mist, remote from the happy
- The Age of Anxiety, W. H. Auden

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