"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow, poetry

Snow inspires thought, and thus art, in photography, in painting, in music, and poetry.

We all learned Robert Frost's classic lines of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," and "Dust of Snow." We wondered and analyzed the repeated last two lines, "I have miles to go before I sleep," when all he was doing was creating art in the canvas of his mind from a trip in snow.

But there is much more poetry on snow than that, most of which we were never taught, and haven't read. Here's a sampling of poems and excerpts, to read as you drink coffee, watch the sun come in and out on our white canvas outside.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.--Wu Men

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon
Lost as a snowflake in the sea--Sara Teasdale


A fading
Mountain echo
Void and
Unreal

Within
A light snow
Three Thousand Realms
Within those realms
Light snow falls

As the snow
Engulfs my hut
At dusk
My heart, too
Is completely consumed—Ryokan

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird....—Wallace Stevens

Come, let's go
snow-viewing
till we're buried. --Matsuo Basho

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news…--Billy Collins

The Snow that never drifts --
The transient, fragrant snow
That comes a single time a Year
Is softly driving now –Emily Dickinson

Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome. -- Mary Oliver

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds –Wallace Stevens

No hawk hangs over in this air:
The urgent snow is everywhere.
The wing adroiter than a sail
Must lean away from such a gale,
Abandoning its straight intent,
Or else expose tough ligament
And tender flesh to what before
Meant dampened feathers, nothing more.
Forceless upon our backs there fall
Infrequent flakes hexagonal,
Devised in many a curious style
To charm our safety for a while,
Where close to earth like mice we go
Under the horizontal snow. –Edna St. Vincent Millet

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree.

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued. —Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. –Robert Frost

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