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In Honour Of Midwinter


The woods are lovely dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

Many of us during this period in the year will be feeling a mixture of nostalgia following the ending of an old year combined with excitement and/or trepidation for the unfolding of a new year. What lies ahead for us all – what challenges and delights might we encounter as we move out of the depth of winter into spring time?

The extract above which is the final verse of the poem entitled ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Robert Frost (see full poem below) and the imagery and emotion it elicits reminds me of our liminality and the essence of our existence. Liminality because there is a sense of being drawn deeper into the lovely darkness and deepness of the wood and yet the essential imperative of our lives is that there is business to be done and commitments to uphold. We are always on the threshold between night and day and life and death – in other words – what it is to be human.

Often this poem is associated with death and despair but we could view it as a reminder of the vitality of life – that we do have things to do before we sleep or die and winter is often a time for quiet contemplation of that notion.

During this period between winter and Spring, we are betwixt and between the old year that we are leaving behind, with many still not fully engaged in the year ahead of us as we are caught between letting go of the old whist we bring in the new – a ritual many of us mindfully engage in on New Year’s Eve.

The words ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (Burns 1788) literally translates from old Scottish dialect meaning ‘Old Long Ago’, ‘Old long since’ or ‘For the sake of old times’ and is about love and friendship in times past. The Auld Lang Syne lyrics referring to ‘We’ll take a Cup of Kindness yet’ relate to a drink shared by men and women to symbolise friendship. It is a song of hopefulness and calls upon songsters to celebrate that which has gone before – and invest in that which lies ahead. A bittersweet sentiment and one which has been central to Scottish originally and latterly British New Year’s Eve tradition for several hundreds of years.

Featured in so many rites of passages and stories where there is an element of passing through the dark into the light (from despair into hope) the ‘dark night of the soul’ is often heralded as one of the greatest and most painful transitions back into daylight again. Thomas Moore (2004) suggests that ‘a dark night of the soul is not a psychological syndrome, but a quest for meaning during life’s darkest hours: the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, ageing and illness, career disappointments or just an ongoing dissatisfaction with life’. The dark night is a challenge to restore ourselves and to become someone of substance, depth and soul and further by using these darker times as an opportunity to reflect and delve into the soul’s deepest needs, we can find a new understanding of life’s meaning (Moore 2004).

Whilst all the above are rich in metaphor and imagery, they nonetheless can have a real impact upon people making sense of their lives and their losses – and I truly hope this short blog inspires you all to make the most of the journey ahead of you.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (1923) from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem.



Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


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