I knew that to-morrow, if the wind kept in the east, the ice on Derwentwater would be in prime condition, and having much work to do, I also knew that there would be no skating for me unless rising betimes I could go off by star and moonlight to the lake. At five-thirty I was astir. Great silver clouds built up the heights of nobler mountains in the south, but westward the moon shone in a cloudless sky. Leaving the quiet house and passing through the sleeping hamlet and through the little town, which, but for light in three windows and in the pencil factory, was still asleep, I made my way to the ‘lands,’ and as the clock struck six—the only living thing in that strange landscape—I shod myself with steel and struck out from the land. (p. 201)
It was poorish skating, for though brooms had been busy on Saturday, the ice had been much cut by skates, and on beyond this broomland the snow of Thursday last lay in patches. The skates rustled through the snow and rang upon the clear ice spaces, and the cold air from the east an hour before the dawn, made one’s face and ears tingle as one pressed against it. As for the moon, she must have been discomforted to think that all her desire to build a golden pillar upon the shining surface of the mere was foiled by these continued snow patches, which broke up the building of her glory into sections of gold, and dimness of dusky silver. (pp. 202-3)
But on beyond the white snow patches lay what looked at first in the dim twilight like open water. It was not till I was close above it that I found this open water a solid sheet of ebon ice without a wrinkle in it. I do not know how it is, but the feeling of ‘The Ancient Mariner’ comes back upon us all when we are the first to burst into an untravelled world, whether it be a sea, a desert waste, or a sheet of ice, and one could not help a sense of thrill with moon and stars alone to be one’s companions. I hissed across that wonderful ice-sheet, swerving and curving with a new sense of power and unaccustomed speed, with Jupiter bright in the mirror before me and the great moon pillar of gold across my way, till, out of breath and with the blood racing warm through my heart, I leaned upon my heels and let the wind carry me where it would. (pp. 203-4)….
But the beauty was not in heaven but upon the shining ebon floor of the lake. Its dark blackness disappeared, and in a moment the vast ice-sheet became first green, then gold, and then of rosy hue. Involuntarily I pulled up and gazed upon the wonder thus revealed, and as I gazed the wonder grew and grew. The moon was still shining above Hindscarth, the sun had not yet appeared, but all her light had paled before the coming of the day, and all the mystery of the heavens was forgotten in the marvel of that polished floor of rose and gold ingrain. It is good to skate at noon and eventide. It is better far to skate when moon and starlight fade before the dawn. (p. 205)
(Chapters at the English Lakes, pp. 200-205)