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“I have looked, and seen November there” – William Morris Poetry

13th November 2017

Though today we remember William Morris predominantly as a designer, during his lifetime, he was actually best known for his poetry. It was only posthumously that he was known for his designs. In our blogs however, we find it important to remember all his work, from his designs and pioneering methods of textile production to his literature, poetry and socialist activator.

We thought it was relevant for this month to therefore focus on his ‘November’ poem, first published in The Early Paradise (1868-70.)

“The Weariness of November” ( Are Thine Eyes Weary? )Included in A Book of Verse, 1870, 10; later the November lyric of The Earthly Paradise.

A Book of Verse, 1870, [p. 10]

The Weariness of November

I
Are thine eyes weary? is thy heart too sick
To struggle any more with doubt, and thought
Whose formless veil draws darkening now and thick
Across thee e’en as smoke-tinged mist-wreaths, brought
Down a fair dale, to make it blind and nought?
Are thou so weary that no world there seems
Beyond these four walls, hung with pain and dreams?

II
Look out upon the real world, where the moon,
Half-way twixt root and crown of these high trees,
Turns the dead midnight into dreamy noon,
Silent and full of wonders; for the breeze
Died at the sunset, and no images,
No hopes of day are left in sky or earth—
Is it not fair, and of most wondrous worth?

III
Yea I have looked, and seen November there;
The changeless seal of change it seemed to be
Fair death of things, that living once, were fair;
Bright sign of loneliness too great for me;
Strange image of the dread eternity;
In whose void patience how can these have part,
These outstretched feverish hands, this restless heart?

 

The Earthly Paradise, November lyric, Kelmscott Press edition, 1896

Are thine eyes weary? is thy heart too sick
To struggle any more with doubt and thought,
Whose formless veil draws darkening now and thick
Across thee, e’en as smoke-tinged mist-wreaths brought
Down a fair dale, to make it blind and nought?
Are thou so weary that no world there seems
Beyond these four walls, hung with pain and dreams?

Look out upon the real world, where the moon,
Half-way ‘twixt root and crown of these high trees,
Turns the dead midnight into dreamy noon,
Silent and full of wonders; for the breeze
Died at the sunset, and no images,
No hopes of day, are left in sky or earth:
Is it not fair, and of most wondrous worth?

Yea, I have looked, and seen November there;
The changeless seal of change it seemed to be,
Fair death of things that, living once, were fair;
Bright sign of loneliness too great for me,
Strange image of the dread eternity,
In whose void patience how can these have part,
These outstretched feverish hands, this restless heart?

 

Morris set up the Kelmscott Press in 1890 after years collecting early printed books and medieval manuscripts and developing the skill of calligraphy and illumination. Reflecting the decline of crafts in England, printing and standards had drastically declined. According to Helen Dore in her book ‘William Morris,’ “with customary thoroughness Morris mastered all aspects of fine hand-printing, designing three typefaces, the ‘Golden’, the ‘Troy’ and the ‘Chaucer.'” (Page 115) Fifty three books were printed by the Press in total, one being The Earthly Paradise in which the beautiful poem November was printed.

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