Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

“The autumn rain-rot deeper and wider soaks”

This autumnal carpet of dead leaves caught my eyes.

The Scots have a word for a “circle of rotted dead leaves round the foot of a tree”1“Rain n.”. Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Nov 2022 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/rain>: “Rain-rot”. Not to be confused with the modern useage for an equine skin disease.

The word seems to have been a favourite of the Victorian English poet William Ernest Henley who used it in at least two of his poems, ‘Vistas‘ and ‘Face to Face2‘Vistas | National Observer | Saturday 21 March 1891 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0004634/18910321/064/0020> [accessed 18 November 2022]3‘Face to Face | National Observer | Saturday 02 April 1892 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0004634/18920402/068/0021> [accessed 18 November 2022]. Henley received an LLD degree from the University of St Andrews so I guess he came across the word whilst in Scotland.

I must admit these poems do nothing for me, I find them quite depressing and tedious. Here is the second verse from ‘Face to Face’:

Something is dead . . .
The autumn rain-rot deeper and wider soaks
And spreads, the burden of winter heavier weighs,
His melancholy close and closer yet
Cleaves, and those incantations of the Spring
That made the heart a centre of miracles
Grow formal, and the wonder-working hours
Arise no more—no more.

Perhaps W. E. Henley’s best known work is ‘Invictus‘, a poem that was famously recited by Nelson Mandela to his fellow prisoners at Robben Island4Wikipedia Contributors. 2022. ‘William Ernest Henley’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ernest_Henley#:~:text=Nelson%20Mandela%20recited%20the%20poem%20%22Invictus%22%20to%20other%20prisoners%20incarcerated%20alongside%20him%20at%20Robben%20Island> [accessed 18 November 2022].






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