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Monday 19 December 2011

Virgil's Vigil


Winter forest near Erzhausen, Germany. Looking eastward: photo by Ingolfson, December 2007

The souls, huddled on the shore

Fearful of the flight across the river, murmuring

Shivering, trying not to touch

Because before embarking contact is so cold

Frost on plant leaves in the Himalayas: photo by Markrosenrosen, 13 October 2008

Frost on fallen leaves, London
: photo by Paul Smith, 7 December 2008

Frost on leaves of Mahonia Aquifolium, London
: photo by Paul Smith, 7 December 2008

File:Glacous Gull on ice.jpg

Glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus) on ice: photo by Alastair Rae. 2005


Nin Andrews said...

Yes, that's for sure. Before embarking, the touch is so cold.
And mind-bogglingly beautiful.

TC said...


You have reminded me which side of the bank we are on, and how near/far is the other shore.

Here is Virgil on the souls of the dead, massed in a woeful throng on the river banks of the Underworld:

" many as the leaves that fall in the first cold Autumn... as many as the birds that gather [glomerantur] when the old year drives them across the sea..."

In Virgil, the souls remain obliged to stay on the far bank and "float hovering" [volitant] about "those shores" until, after a hundred years, they are permitted to return to the watery fens and marshes [stagna] that they yearn for [exoptata].

ACravan said...

This is so powerful and so precisely framed that I've been a little overwhelmed, trying to keep my distance. Curtis

Barry Taylor said...

Ten days ago I was standing on that shore and feeling that last coldness of touch, and I hope you'll all forgive me for marking my dear Christine's embarkation here, but these words and images help me hold and shape barely speakable feelings. Near and far. Leaf and frost. Volitant.

Thank you for making a place where things that matter can be said.

andrei said...

These images are so beautiful and comforting, Tom. I haven't said much about your postings this year, but I cherish and read them everytime they arrive. May your & your loved ones Christmas be kind, and your 2012 healthy, sane (as needed) and warm. Much love, Andrei

Anonymous said...

That I should read this post at the same time as I've begun re-reading Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia is supremely appropriate. The most profound things of life & death are also frigidly simple, still but expectant. Virgil knew this better than most, surely.

TC said...


Desolating about Christine. Our hearts go out to you. For what it may be worth, you are always welcome here.


Running a bit low on sanity (as ever), health and warmth this season... yet greatly cheered to hear from you as always, mon cher Prince.


We're always trying to keep our distance[s] from these shores, too... but they do have a way of creeping up on one.


The frigidly simple (yet overwhelmingly complicated) natura rerum, this time of year -- oh!

"One must have a mind of winter..."