With all this snow on the way, I recalled a poem written over a hundred years ago by Robert Bridges, the English poet laureate:
When men [and women] were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
All night it fell, and when full inches seven [20″ in Maine]
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled–marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.
Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snow-balling;
Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees; [necks in Maine]
Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder,
‘O look at the trees!’ they cried, ‘O look at the trees!’
With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
Following along the white deserted way,
A country company long dispersed asunder:
When now already the sun in pale display
Standing by Paul’s pale dome, spread forth below
His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow;
And trains of somber men, past tale of number,
Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go;
But even for them awhile no cares encumber
Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken,
The daily thoughts of labor and sorrow slumber
At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm
they have broken.
– Robert Bridges, 1844-1930
Then I shoved a couple of sticks in the woodstove.
And recalled my own poem:
Sticks of wood are personalities
like dogs and cats, but simpler.
One hisses with the rain
garnered slowly on a woodpile. One
cackles cackles groans
and falls to its side.
Two, brought near, strike up an acquaintance
in the burning world.
– Henry Braun, Weld
From Loyalty, New and Selected Poems
By Henry Braun
Off The Grid Press, 2006