Generations of schoolchildren learned the poem The North Wind Doth Blow, which in five simple, rhyming stanzas evokes man and beast’s struggle with the cruelty of the winter cold.
The verse is believed to have come from 15th-century Elizabethan England, famous for its cruel winters, and the poem’s survival in the folk tales of these islands and North America speaks to our endless struggle with the elements.
But this little ditty — easily memorized in times of memorization — is not as trite as it first seems.
It successfully and melodically evokes pity and thoughts for others while visually evoking images of extreme coldness.
The first stanza carries the full quote: “The north wind is blowing / And we shall have snow / And what will the robin do then, poor thing? / He’ll sit in a barn, / And keep warm, / And hide his head under his wing, poor thing!’
Later verses remind us that the swallow departed long ago for warmer climes, and that the dormouse and the bee have taken to sleeping comfortably in their respective homes through the harsh winter weather. The author also recalls how humanity deals with the images of children running and jumping to warm up in their fight against the cold.
As Met Éireann tells us that the current cold snap is likely to continue into the end of this week, many of us will be emulating the robin and seeking as much shelter and warmth as possible.
The country’s weather forecasts have warned of treacherous conditions on trails and roads. They have also said that the freezing fog, which has the potential to freeze to the core, will continue to occur. In general it will remain very cold throughout the week with widespread sharp to severe frosts and frigid intervals.
Other predicted joys include some hailstorms, sleet and even snow in some areas.
Many of us will understandably respond by imitating the robin, at least figuratively, and hole up indoors and expend considerable thought and energy on keeping warm.
It doesn’t hurt at all – provided we also take some time and space to think of others around us who might need a little extra support. Since the beginning of time, men and women have used times of extreme weather as an opportunity to reach out to family, neighbors, friends, and even strangers for a little extra help battling the elements.
Now is a good time to keep up this beautiful tradition. It is good to remember that in this situation the giver can benefit just as much as the receiver.
The line from the moving prayer of St. Francis of Assisi was never more apt: “For in giving we receive.” Coming together can give us added strength to see the brighter side of things amid this severe cold snap.
Essentially, this cold patch can be used to remind us all that ultimately we are an interdependent community that will benefit from supporting one another.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/cold-snap-must-remind-us-we-are-all-one-community-42212246.html Cold snap needs to remind us that we are all one community