Afloat on birdsong, hawthorn petals and young leaves
Dec. 12, 2021

Winter Wisdom (Wintrum frod)

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Following the epic weather of the past few weeks, we go back in time to a period that best celebrated this type of weather. In this episode we explore why the enigmatic appeal of Anglo-Saxon poetry and its fascination (or even obsession) with winter casts such an enduring influence on our culture. It is the perfect type of literature for cold winter nights, but there are also other deeper traits that remain deeply rooted in our shared cultural memories that inform our attitudes to winter.    

Journal entry:

“8th December, Wednesday

Storm Barra is barrelling around the boat
    Harrying and jostling us,
     So that the roaring world tips and sways.

The darkness is flecked silver with rain
      As Penny and I walk into a howling dawn. “


Episode Information

In this episode I mention the following books:

Michael Alexander’s (2006) The Earliest English Poems Penguin Classics series, published by Penguin Books.

Alexandra Harris’ (2015) Weatherland: Writers and artists under English skies published by Thames and Hudson. 

I read excerpts from the following poems (Michael Alexander’s translations):

The Ruin (alternative translation)

The Seafarer

Exeter riddle 73 (other texts count it as 74) 

For those wanting to explore the world of Anglo Saxon and Old English literature, you might find this website, created by Dr Aaron Hostetter from Rutgers University, very helpful: An Old English Poetry Project.

A digital version of the Exeter Book produced c.970 (in which the above are featured) can be viewed here: Exeter Book

I also mentioned Andy Grifee’s narrowboat-based crime series featuring Johnson and Wilde which are published by Orphans Publishing. 

General Details

In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at

Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River Weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence. 

Piano and keyboard interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.

All other audio recorded on site. 

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