Night is coming

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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange likes to work to the words of an old Victorian hymn.

(LANGE) Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ‘mid springing flowers…

I learned that in Sunday School: one of those didactic little hymns written to inspire us all to keep our noses to the grindstone. It was written in 1854 by an eighteen-year-old English girl named Anna Coghill. Most of those Victorian exhortations were written by folks who didn’t have to work themselves. But Anna did. She ended her days as a governess.

I thought of her Saturday morning. That’s the day I get to work around the house. I stuck my nose out the door after breakfast to see how many layers I’d need to keep from freezing while the dew sparkled ‘mid the springing flowers.

Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun…

The west side of the house is in the shade till nearly noon this time of year. But at least there was a sun, with a bright blue sky. A pair of ravens brightened it further by flapping past, high up. And thanks to modern fabrics, I don’t shiver much anymore, as long as I keep moving. But there’s nothing much you can do about the fingers.

Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.

Work through noon, eh? Listen! Noon is a sacred ritual, established by years of working with old guys who dropped everything at the stroke of twelve. During lunch I read the mail, and on Saturdays usually take a little nap.

Not this Saturday, though. With darkness four hours away, I headed right back out. The north slope of the roof was in shadow. That means the sun stands below forty-five degrees. It’ll get all the way down to twenty-three degrees before it starts coming back, in January.

Pretty quiet up here on the hillside. An occasional car went by on the road the other side of the swamp. Miles away, I heard the cheering of the crowd at the Dartmouth football game. Two blue jays screamed at each other in a tall popple.

At 3:47 the shadow of a tree fell across my work and a cold breath of air stole into the collar of my shirt. Time to think about picking up. It wasn’t going to rain or snow before morning, but leaving tools out overnight is as unthinkable as leaving the dog out. So in the dimming light I carried them to the truck and put them in their places. Took off my apron. Closed the truck windows against the frost and the garage doors against the raccoons. A dab of Irish whiskey was calling to me from indoors. Not a bad day. Over, anyway.

Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er.

When man’s work is o’er, eh? That’ll be the day!

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire –I gotta get back to work.

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