‘March Many-weathers’—that was one of the old names for this month, and it is true to its title. Nay, it is because of this very changeableness of the month which comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb that gives it so much interest in our Lake Country. The meres and tarns to-day lie like sapphires among the hills, to-morrow they will be as white as a dead man’s face. The fells to-day are purple or amethyst, to-morrow they will look wan and colourless as a chalk wold whence the herbage was faded. To-morrow we shall find all the ‘tops’ white as midwinter, to-day they are sun-bright and almost summer-hearted. (p. 30)
But the glory of March is not that it is many-hued and many-mooded on earth, but that its heavens are one with its earth in Protæan change and swiftness of expression. It is the moving of the heavens through all the gamut of appeal to the many changing temper of man which seems to constitute its chiefest charm. It is not that the changes from clear sky to storm are frequent, that suddenly a veil of sleet will be flung upon the hills to their entire hiding, and that as swiftly the whole world will be revealed in burnished splendour, but the clouds themselves in March seem to take on a new beauty of sun-bright whiteness and dazzle in deeps of blue, and after forming themselves into flying squadrons or sailing galleons all through the day, will suddenly towards sunset drop for rest upon the hills, and leave a boundless horizon of untroubled saffron and gold that fades into green at the zenith with such a sense of rest and peace as only after trouble heals the soul. (pp. 30-31)
At no time better than at evenfall does the Lake Country in March put on such mystic change. The clear, full light of sunset flooding hill and vale suddenly seem to leave the land. The hills that just now glowed and gleamed become pale and blanched and cold, as if there never could come to these fells the cheerfulness of spring. Then in about twenty minutes or half-an-hour’s time all the old glory returns, and mountain breasts burn as with fire. Beneath the witchery of the after-glow it seems almost as if a sunrise from the west had begun to shed its wonder on the hills and the impatient stars must hide for another day. The birds that had ceased from their first passionate requiem break out to music once again, and ere the witchery of the new and unexpected dawn has faded, the moon in all its splendour is casting long shadows upon the grass. (p. 31)….
But what is the predominant colouring of March? If January is grey and February is brown, March is purple and gold. For never are the contrasts of greys and green so sure to bring the purples of the woodland into prominence. Dim purple of oak, dark purple of alder, rich purple of birch and sweet gale, all these are emphasised by the greys of the stems of the oaks and the greens of the mosses in the wood and the background of grey green fellside, while always the silver grey of the naked ash tree branches rise up in mid woodland with such effect as almost to make one think that the wild cherry is just blossoming, and the white ‘pussies,’ as they are called, of the willow seem to be budding almond trees in the purple thickets. Then again far off the hills are purple blue, so purple blue that the great billows of cloud that are laid upon them seem almost to become by reflection purple blue themselves. As to the gold, the bracken has been so washed into the fellside as to seem gold engrain. The vast stretches of what last month were rain-blanched miles of mountain grass and rushes upon the higher moors or fell tops, take on in March a golden stain, which in the level sun of morn and evening burn like amber, while in the plantations the larches become squirrel colour,—lucent pyramids of feathery gold that soon will go through a chameleon change and become of tenderest green. Purple and gold then may be truly called the favourite colour of March. The east wind seems to be undecided which is best. For the fallows purple at the morn are by midday changed to tawny yellow, and the ploughman is well pleased—a peck of dust in March is like a peck of dust in May, the surety of a good time coming. (pp. 34-36)
But there are two birds and one flower which have quite made up their minds that purple March was specially meant to show their beauty off to full perfection, and we welcome them both to the English Lakeland as harbingers of spring—the yellow wagtail and the yellow bunting, and the golden daffodil. The coltsfoot is scarcely yet in beauty on the railway embankment that faces the south, but there is hardly an orchard where the daffodil has not bent his spear and turned his hint of warfare to a loving-cup of gold, and though not yet the willows have changed their silver buds to honey-scented flower of radiant sun, the celandine is bright in the hedgerows, and the children’s hearts are once more glad because of it, and not a hazel copse in the dale but has hung out its yellow catkins for their hungry hands. March is a month much after the children’s mind. It is in March the girls are seen to bring their skipping ropes to school, and marbles and peggies and whipping tops once more reappear. (p. 36)
(Months at the Lakes, pp. 30-36)