Weathering

Like me, many readers were moved by Fleur Adcock’s extraordinary poem, A Surprise in the Peninsula, which I posted here on May 30. At that time I mentioned another favorite Adcock poem that just didn’t belong in a reading of that visceral, primal poem.

So here is Weathering, probably Fleur Adcock’s most famous poem. I first heard read 15 years ago by David Whyte, bard and poet, and I fell in love with it immediately. Whyte claims that Adcock wrote this while she was spending some time in the Lake District in England (he’s an Englishman after all, and could be considered a bit partial!) Adcock is from New Zealand so she could just have easily been writing about her native country. Whatever the case, that beautiful part of England comes to mind whenever I reread this poem. It is a place where I have spent so many wonderful days of my life, “where simply to look out my window/at the high pass/makes me indifferent to mirrors.” That is a feeling I know and treasure.

Weathering

Literally thin-skinned, I suppose, my face
catches the wind off the snow-line and flushes
with a flush that will never wholly settle. Well:
that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young for ever, to pass.

I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.
But now that I am in love with a place
which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy,

happy is how I look, and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake, my waist thicken,
and the years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather-beaten as well

that’s little enough lost, a fair bargain
for a year among the lakes and fells, when simply
to look out of my window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion.

–Fleur Adcock

[Note: The accurate version of this poem was reposted here in September 2012]

12 Comment

  1. Betsy Ricks says:

    Wonderful poem. Thanks so much for posting it.

  2. And thank you B for stopping in. I aways like hearing from you.

  3. My friends, a couple in their 70s, have lived on the side of a Vermont mountain for over 30 years, and hiked every mountain in the state. This poem reminds me of them. I hope to “weather” as well.
    MadSilence

  4. Pamela says:

    Thanks, D for this. “happy is how I look and that’s all.” Perfect.

  5. P, that is a great line, one I’ve thought about for a long time.

  6. TMcL says:

    I have read a little about her in Housden’s anthology “ten poems to last a lifetime” and although she did live in NZ for quite a time, in fact she was born in UK, and moved back there after a divorce, he says. He doesn’t mention whether she died there, though. I love the photos you have added here.

  7. (in love with a place that doesn’t care how I look…) Yes, that is happiness…and it shows…

  8. Claudia says:

    thank you for this beautiful blog! I loved the poem.

  9. Thanks for your kind words Claudia. It is an exquisite poem, no question.

  10. SH says:

    thank you for sharing this poem, it reminds me of the beautiful poems from the Romantic period 🙂 am a bit puzzled though – what does ‘the high pass’ exactly refer to? thanks again!

  11. Stephen Walsh says:

    Just one problem – this is not the poem written by Fleur Adcock. This is a bastardised version that appears in multiple places on the internet. I think you should get hold of her poems 1960-2000 (Oxford University Press) and post the real version.

    1. Thank you Stephen. I’ll get the Oxford volume and make sure I have posted her original poem. Like many people I was introduced to the poem by hearing David Whyte recite it so line breaks, etc. could be wrong.

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