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