Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Before there was weather
No matter where you are, you hear people talking about the weather. Experiencing the weather is one thing we all have in common. It is always an acceptable topic of conversation. We all notice the weather. Often we complain about it; sometimes we glory in it. But we never ignore it. You might think this was ever so, but it turns out that the English didn't used to talk about the weather at all.
It wasn't until the Middle Ages that writers started to describe weather. Even then it was a slow start. Probably many of us remember bits of Chaucer's Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. It's April. There are sweet-smelling showers, flowers, the Zephyr the West Wind, small birds singing. But that's about the only time Chaucer talks about the weather. Anglo Saxon poets onlt talked about menacing weather, dark shadows and the cold. And diarists didn't start taking note of the daily weather until about the 17th century. Samuel Pepys only mentions it when it interferes with his plans. He never steps outside, takes a deep breath and says what a beautiful day. Yet here we are today and you have only to look at a few blogs to see that everyone talks about the weather. Bad and good.
I could go on and on. (Spring is barely mentioned in Old English.The year was seen in terms of 2 seasons only: winter and summer.) But I'll spare you my usual didacticism and just urge you to take a look at Alexandra Harris's book Weatherland. She traces representations of weather through English literature and art, and it's just about all I can thing of right now.
Do you remember learning poems about the weather when you were a kid?
at 7:51 PM