Under the Snow
By Robert Collyer
It was Christmas Eve in the year fourteen,
And, as ancient dalesmen used to tell,
The wildest winter they ever had seen,
With the snow lying deep on moor and fell,
When Wagoner John got out his team,
Smiler and Whitefoot, Duke and Gray,
With the light in his eyes of a young man's dream,
As he thought of his wedding on New Year's Day
To Ruth, the maid with the bonnie brown hair,
And eyes of the deepest, sunniest blue,
Modest and winsome, and wondrous fair,
And true to her troth, for her heart was true.
"Thou 's surely not going!" shouted mine host,
"Thou 'll be lost in the drift, as sure as thou 's born;
Thy lass winnot want to wed wi' a ghost,
And that 's what thou 'll be on Christmas morn.
"It 's eleven long miles from Skipton toon
To Blueberg hooses 'e Washburn dale:
Thou had better turn back and sit thee doon,
And comfort thy heart wi' a drop o' good ale."
Turn the swallows flying south,
Turn the vines against the sun,
Herds from rivers in the drouth,
Men must dare or nothing 's done.
So what cares the lover for storm or drift,
Or peril of death on the haggard way?
He sings to himself like a lark in the lift,
And the joy in his heart turns December to May.
But the wind from the north brings a deadly chill
Creeping into his heart, and the drifts are deep,
Where the thick of the storm strikes Blueberg hill.
He is weary and falls in a pleasant sleep,
And dreams he is walking by Washburn side,
Walking with Ruth on a summer's day,
Singing that song to his bonnie bride,
His own wife now forever and aye.
Now read me this riddle, how Ruth should hear
That song of a heart in the clutch of doom
Steal on her ear, distinct and clear
As if her lover was in the room.
And read me this riddle, how Ruth should know,
As she bounds to throw open the heavy door,
That her lover was lost in the drifting snow,
Dying or dead, on the great wild moor.
"Help! help!" "Lost! lost!"
Rings through the night as she rushes away,
Stumbling, blinded and tempest-tossed,
Straight to the drift where her lover lay.
And swift they leap after her into the night,
Into the drifts by Blueberg hill,
Ridsdale and Robinson, each with a light,
To find her there holding him white and still.
"He was dead in the drift, then,"
I hear them say,
As I listen in wonder,
Forgetting to play,
Fifty years syne come Christmas Day.
"Nay, nay, they were wed!" the dalesman cried,
"By Parson Carmalt o' New Year's Day;
Bless ye! Ruth were me great-great grandsire's bride,
And Maister Frankland gave her away."
"But how did she find him under the snow?"
They cried with a laughter touched with tears.
"Nay, lads," he said softly, "we never can know --
"No, not if we live a hundred years.
"There 's a sight o' things gan
To the making o' man."
Then I rushed to my play
With a whoop and away,
Fifty years syne come Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas. We are spending it in Hanover, where we arrived in the afternoon after a very easy drive past grazing cows and geese that don't bother to migrate (the fact that it's above freezing with no hint of snow might have encouraged all the animals to enjoy the sunshine). We stopped at the Utz factory outlet on the way into town to get assorted chips and pretzels on sale for the holidays.
Paul's parents planned to go to the early evening church service, so we ate dinner early -- cheese fondue, both swiss with white wine and cheddar with Guinness, which was utterly delicious -- and watched bits of football, a good day since the Eagles were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and the Ravens finished an undefeated season at home -- they clinched a playoff spot though for a while it looked like they were going to let Cleveland come back.
After church, Clair and Cinda returned and we had chocolate fondue with cherries, strawberries, bananas, angel food cake, and donut holes and I believe some people are presently watching the Hawaii Bowl. It's more football than can hold my interest but still an improvement over endless repeats of A Christmas Story. Here are a few mostly domestic photos of my Saturday, plus the Utz store: