26 DECEMBER 1947, Page 13


No month in the year has been more unfairly treated by the poets and rhymesters than December. Shakespeare (though he gives it the more or less endearing epithet "old ") stresses its "bareness everywhere.'' Tusser, whose doggerel is rather better than doggerel usually is and nearly always at least sensible, ticked off all the twelve months with a pleasant compliment. The whole is quoted in a pretty little anthology The Joyful Year. He began the list with "a kindly good Janiveere " which for the rest is often called " black " and ended with "0 dirty December for Christmas remember." Yet dirty is a truer adjective than bare. Berries and even leaves persist. The blackberry, which is perhaps on the way to become an evergreen, is now in full green leaf, dotted with odd leaves that have the full autumnal hue. Some of the gorses are almost as full of blossom as in March, the month that "blooms the whin." More surprising is the fresh growth of young grass, taken by Horace as the surest evidence of spring. Whatever its deficiencies, the last month of the year is very much more congenial to most of us than the first of tit!. New Year when the cold strengthens as the light lengthens. Touching this same lengthening of the light, the evening lengthens after Decem- ber 17, though not the morning, a fact in astronomical mathematics that is beyond the understanding of most of us.