Thomas Hood, English Poet and Humorist 1799 – 1845
Today is very Novemberish, as describe in Thomas Hood’s poem. It’s wet, drab, and foggy. My aparment building is on a knoll from which I can usually see trees, houses, commercial buildings, hills, and mountains. Today I can’t even see across the small valley.
November No sun — no moon! No morn — no noon — No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day. No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member — No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! — November!
For me this verse is no more than a bit of hyperbole. I’m lucky enough to live in a state where even in mid-winter it’s never really bleak. The sun makes an appearance, even if a brief one, almost every day. My state’s nickname is the Evergreen State for good reason. Not only do we have conifers, we also have madronas which never lose their leaves. The fog is never so thick that we can’t see anything. But even if things are never as bleak as Hood describes them, it can feel that way when it’s been raining without a break for days on end.
However, for Hood living in London during the Industrial Revolution his poem was most likely an accurate description of how things were. Coal was the chief source of energy. Contemporary writer Hugh Mill writes about “the lurid gloom of the atmosphere that overhangs it” (the city) and its “innumerable chimneys.” The smog used to be so bad that it entered buildings, homes, theaters, concert halls, among others. Add November’s gloomy weather and it must have been more gloomy than we can imagine. Is it any wonder that Hood died so young?