»  Shakespeare's  "Winter"

 

Winter

by William Shakespeare, 1564-1616

 

•  Background

These charming lines are recited at the very end of Shakespeare's play Love's Labours Lost, written in 1595 or 1596, when the poet was 30, 31, or 32. The play's comic characters put on a show in the last act, to entertain the King and various nobles present, including the Princess of France. The play is interrupted by news that the Princess's father has died. She prepares to leave, but the bumptious Don Adriano (described in the dramatis personae as "a fantastical Spaniard") insists on performing two last songs, of which this is the second.

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•  Play the reading

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•  Text of the poem

When icicles hang by the wall,
    And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
    And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipped, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
                    Tu-who;
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
    And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
    And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
                    Tu-who;
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.