Friday, February 8, 2013


At the beginning of his poem “The Waste Land” Thomas Stearns Eliot, after wowing us with an opening volley of Latin and Greek, wrote the following:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

I beg to differ with Mr. Thomas Stearns Eliot.

April is not the cruellest month.

February is.

[Editor’s note. Readers in the southern hemisphere may wish to substitute August for February. Also, before we proceed further, here is a translation of line 12: “I’m no Russian, derived from Lithuania, truly German.” --RWP]

In February one has usually had quite enough of winter, yet it feels as though winter will go on forever.

In February one forgets what spring, summer, and fall even felt like.

In February one hears weather forecasts such as the one I heard earlier today, “Two feet of snow are expected in the area from New York to Boston and beyond.”

Mr. Thomas Stearns Eliot was a strange duck, or at least he had some very strange relatives. Why his cousin, the archduke, would take him out on a sled down a mountain in the middle of summer (that is clearly what the poem implies) and tell him, “Marie, Marie, hold on tight” is beyond me.

And Mr. Thomas Stearns Eliot is just plain wrong about winter keeping us warm.

In February one cannot wear enough clothing to get warm.

I know. I’ve tried.

It may be true that April breeds lilacs out of the dead land, but February, if one is very fortunate, will breed jonquils like the ones I saw today growing in a patch by the side of the road.

Those jonquils, my dear readers, are why I called this post “Hope.”


  1. Do you get snow often where you are Robert? Keep warm.

  2. Katherine, no, actually. I must have Freezing By Proxy (not that there is such a thing). I'm very cold-natured, or warm-natured, or whatever the phrase is (I can never keep that straight). This winter we have had no snow at all so far in my part of Georgia, not even one flake. A couple of years ago we had five separate snowfalls, one of them on Christmas Day.

    Now that I think about it, it's not the snow that makes me cold. It's the air temperature, especially when combined with high winds. Thank you for asking.