Bolton Abbey Parish Magazine
Remembering St Martin
Though flowers have perished at the touch
Of Frost, the early comer,
I hail the season loved so much,
The good St Martin’s summer.
John Greenleaf Whittier, a nineteenth century American Quaker and poet, is best known as the author of the much-loved hymn Dear Lord and Father of mankind. Amongst his many other works is a poem, St Martin’s Summer, which celebrates the period of mild weather (also known as an Indian summer) that frequently occurs around the Feast of St Martin of Tours on 11 November.
In the United Kingdom 11 November is better known as Armistice Day, solemnly marked each year as the date on which the agreement for the cessation of hostilities on the western front came into effect in 1918. Remarkably, another stanza of Whittier’s poem seems to anticipate the armistice by describing a (figurative) cessation of hostilities between two weather systems on St Martin’s Day:
The summer and the winter here
Midway a truce are holding,
A soft, consenting atmosphere
Their tents of peace enfolding.
Monday 11 November 1918 was cold and damp but, on the days following, high pressure settled over the continent as St Martin’s Summer set in and the ‘tents of peace’ were finally pitched in Europe. As we prepare once again to remember the terrible toll that war took in the bloody conflicts of the twentieth century, we also look forward with hope to a time when a ‘soft consenting atmosphere’ will herald God’s final reign of justice, mercy, and peace.
May God bless you in your remembering
and in your hoping.