A Victorian writer who knew him, says of the English poet and humourist, Thomas Hood (1799-1845), that "his existence was a long disease rather than a life", plagued as he was by ill health from childhood. However, by the time of his early death at the age of 46 Hood had endeared himself to the British public through his satirical observations on contemporary life published in "Punch" and "Comic Annual". His novels, such as the romance, "Lamia", were bought in respectable numbers, as were his volumes of poetry. Some individual poems such as his "Song of the Shirt", a piece of social commentary about the working conditions of shirt-makers, were highly acclaimed, being translated for European audiences as well as finding wide readership in Britain.
Today Hood is recognised by many but revered by few, his work slipping back into the second tier of Victorian writers. Nonetheless, as I cycled through the Lincolnshire Fens late in the afternoon of an overcast day it was his poem about the month of November that came to mind. I heard it as a schoolboy and enjoyed its simple structure. Back in those days we hadn't heard of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but as I re-read the poem for the first time in decades I did wonder if it was one of the afflictions that poor Thomas Hood bore along with his other illnesses! But no, it was probably just his reaction to drab, damp, smog-wreathed London in the year's penultimate month.
No sun—no moon!
No morn—no noon!
No sky—no earthly view—
No distance looking blue—
No road—no street—no “t'other side this way”—
No end to any Row—
No indications where the Crescents go—
No top to any steeple—
No recognitions of familiar people—
No courtesies for showing 'em—
No knowing 'em!
No travelling at all—no locomotion—
No inkling of the way—no notion—
“No go” by land or ocean—
No mail—no post—
No news from any foreign coast—
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility—
No company—no nobility—
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—
I was propelling my bicycle homewards, through the winding lanes of the flat landscape, when the sun made a brief appearance over the the village of Gosberton, and I stopped to compose this landscape using the spire of St Peter & St Paul to balance the illuminated clouds.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen
Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 48mm (96mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On