The Snow Fairy
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol'n away.
And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter's night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light.
My heart was like the weather when you came,
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long;
But you, with joy and passion all aflame,
You danced and sang a lilting summer song.
I made room for you in my little bed,
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm,
A downful pillow for your scented head,
And lay down with you resting in my arm.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.
Copyright © Claude McKay, 2009. All rights reserved.
That got me thinking about other poems in which snow, winter, and so forth figure centrally. Of course I have already posted Wallace Stevens's sublime "The Snow Man" on this blog (back in April 2007). What are some others? I got to thinking, and tweeted the following, creating (I gather) a new hashtag, #snowpoems, in the process. I even posted a haiku to get things going.
White christmas dreams, fears
of the snowflakes that will come
wanting to remain
When in doubt, haiku. So far, though, solo. (Though Nic P. did retweet the haiku--thanks Nic!) If you're on Twitter, add to the list, please!
McKay's poem made me recall one of Emily Dickinson's (1830-1886) gems, Poem 1669, "In snow thou comest," with its drumtight use of metaphor, allusion, prosody, music. The figure addressed here is winter itself, as a means for talking about life:
In snow thou comest --
Thou shalt go with the resuming ground,
The sweet derision of the crow,
And Glee's advancing sound.
In fear thou comest --
Thou shalt go at such a gait of joy
That man anew embark to live
Upon the depth of thee.
Here's another, by the great (Kobayashi) Issa [小林一茶](1763-1828), which uses a sign of winter's (possibly temporary) departure, metonymically, as a springboard to depict life and its possibilities:
The snow is meltingSo what are some other "snow" poems? Among the most famous in American literature, of course, is:
and the village is flooded
Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
Guillaume Apollinaire, "La blanche neige"
Francisco X. Alarcón, "Iguanas in the Snow"
A.R. Ammons, "I Come In From the Snowy World"
John Ashbery, "What Is Poetry?"
Emily Dickinson, "Snow flakes"
Rita Dove, "The Snow King"
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Snow-Storm"
Anne Hébert, "La neige"
Nizam Hikmet, "It snows in the night"
Denise Levertov, "Praise Wet Snow Falling Early"
Edna St. Vincent Millay, "The Snow Storm"
Gabriela Mistral, "Mientras baja la nieve"
Eugenio Montale, "Here is the sign"
Quincy Troupe, "Snow and Ice"
Walt Whitman, "To a Locomotive in Winter"
What are some that come to your mind? Let me know and I'll add them to the list.