Dorset: land of mists
Mark Bauer captures the misty morns that are the quintessence of autumn
Published in November ’13
Mist may not uniquely occur in autumn, but it is the season with which we associate this most ethereal of weather effects. As well as being a gift to photographers – at least when it is at the ‘Goldilocks’ moment of neither being too thin to show, nor too thick to completely mask the scene over which it has settled – mist has proven to be a fertile source of inspiration for two of Dorset’s famous literary sons.
Thomas Hardy in his poem ‘A Sign-Seeker’, writes lyrically:
‘I view the evening bonfires of the sun
On hills where morning rains have hissed;
The eyeless countenance of the mist
Pallidly rising when the summer droughts are done.’
In The Return of the Native he is more descriptive: ‘The heath and changes of weather were quite blotted out from their eyes for the present. They were enclosed in a sort of luminous mist, which hid from them surroundings of any inharmonious colour, and gave to all things the character of light.’
There’s a ring of truth in that statement. Misty days can quite successfully eliminate all visible manifestations of the modern age; one is left standing in an atmosphere and a landscape that is identical to one which our ancestors would have seen. Hardy is more romantic, though, about the effects of mist in Tess of the d’Urbervilles:
‘Minute diamonds of moisture from the mist hung, too, upon Tess’s eyelashes, and drops upon her hair, like seed pearls’.
But perhaps the most moving evocation of the effects of mist come from William Barnes in his poem ‘The Wife a-lost':
‘Since you noo mwore be at my zide,
In walks in zummer het,
I’ll goo alwone where mist do ride,
Droo trees a-drippèn wet;
Below the raïn-wet bough, my love,
Where you did never come,
An’ I don’t grieve to miss ye now,
As I do grieve at hwome.’
Just like William Barnes, we can be transported by the mist back to an earlier time, the effect of being isolated from the modern world can, in equal likelihood, bring on peace, wonder or melancholy.
In life, as in literature, the droplets on eyelashes may not always be from the mist, but there is a comfort in the shape-shifting, sound-muffling splendour, with its ability to erase the banal road sign and the asphalt road, the ugly aerial and ubiquitous satellite dish. Mist is the medium of myth and wonder; it is that which makes a fair land fairer… for being able to see just a little less of it.