I loved the Winter once with all my soul,
And longed for snow-storms, hail, and mantled skies;
And sang their praises in as gay a troll
As Troubadours have poured to Beauty’s eyes.
I deemed the hard, black frost a pleasant thing,
For logs blazed high, and horses’ hoofs rung out;
And wild birds came with tame and gentle wing
To eat the bread my young hand flung about.
But I have walked into the world since then,
And seen the bitter work that cold can do—
Where the grim Ice King levels babes and men
With the bloodless spear, that pierces through and through.
I know now, there are those who sink and lie
Upon a stone bed at the dead of night.
I know the roofless and unfed must die,
When even lips at Plenty’s feast turn white.
And now whene’er I hear the cuckoo’s song
In budding woods, I bless the joyous comer;
While my heart runs a cadence in a throng
Of hopeful notes, that say, “Thank God for Summer!”
I’ve learnt that sunshine bringeth more than flowers,
And fruits and forest leaves to cheer the earth;
For I have seen sad spirits, like dark bowers,
Light up beneath it with a grateful mirth.
The aged limbs that quiver in their task
Of dragging life on, when the north wind goads—
Taste once again contentment, as they bask
In the straight beams that warm their churchyard road.
And Childhood—poor pinched Childhood—half forgets
The starving pittance of our cottage homes,
When he can leave the hearth, and chase the nets
Of gossamer that cross him as he roams.
The moping idiot seemeth less distraught
When he can sit upon the grass all day,
And laugh and clutch the blades, as though he thought
The yellow sunbeams challenged him to play.
Ah! dearly, now, I hail the nightingale,
And greet the bee—that merry-going hummer—
And when the lilies peep so sweet and pale,
I kiss their cheeks and say—“Thank God for Summer!”
Feet that limp, blue and bleeding, as they go
For dainty cresses in December’s dawn;
Can wade and dabble in the brooklet’s flow,
And woo the gurgles on a July morn.
The tired pilgrim, who would shrink with dread
If Winter’s drowsy torpor lulled his brain,
Is free to choose his mossy summer bed,
And sleep his hour or two in some green lane.
Oh! Ice-toothed King, I loved you once; but now
I never see you come without a pang
Of hopeless pity shadowing my brow,
To think how naked flesh must feel your fang.
My eyes watch now to see the elms unfold,
And my ears listen to the callow rook;
I hunt the palm trees for their first rich gold,
And pry for violets in the southern nook.
And when fair Flora sends the butterfly,
Painted and spangled, as her herald mummer,
“Now for warm holidays,” my heart will cry,
“The poor will suffer less! Thank God for summer!”



Publication:Preston Guardian

Published in:Preston


Keywords:, poverty, religion


This poem by the very popular writer Eliza Cook represents a growing social conscience in the speaker as she reflects on her former love of the beauty of winter landscapes. Recognising that the cold of winter has disastrous effects on the poor, in particular the elderly and increased infant mortality, the speaker finds a new joy in the coming summer months. The publication of this poem in Preston in the spring of 1862, as the Cotton Famine’s effects were becoming even more widespread and intense, is poignant when looked at through the lens of history. The town suffered horribly again in the coming winter of 1862-63, and hundreds died from the effects of poverty-related ill health, cold and malnutrition. – SR