Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Winter's Day

I always thought my loathing of cold and winter 
was unmatched by anyone else.
That is, until I discovered this morose poem 
published in a 1913 collection called
The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Mr. Dunbar really hated winter:

A Winter's Day
Across the hills and down the narrow ways,
And up the valley where the free winds sweep,
The earth is folded in an ermined sleep
That mocks the melting mirth of myriad Mays.
Departed her disheartening duns and grays,
And all her crusty black is covered deep.
Dark streams are locked in Winter's donjon-keep,
And made to shine with keen, unwonted rays.
O icy mantle, and deceitful snow!
What world-old liars in your hearts ye are!
Are there not still the darkened seam and scar
Beneath the brightness that you fain would show?
Come from the cover with thy blot and blur,
O reeking Earth, thou whited sepulchre!

Wow, that's intense. Even I don't hate winter that much. 
Of course, there are other interpretations of Dunbar's poem
besides his uneasiness and frustration with winter.
Maybe his words are an acknowledgment that winter is but an illusion, 
albeit a cruel one.
Or perhaps he's saying that the beauty of snow
obscures the bleak ugliness of the winter landscape
as it lies waiting just below the crystalline surface.
That's the beauty of poetry,
it will always mean different things to different people.

photo courtesy of

But I will concede winter is not all bad.
Yesterday in the Shire, the sun came out and the sky was clear blue.
The temperature remained below freezing,
but I enjoyed seeing the Canadian geese clustered together 
next to the pond as a great blue heron sailed in, 
flapped then folded its wings,
and settled first one foot and then the other in the water.
The geese were unruffled and continued to sun themselves.
It was a pleasant winter scene.

photo courtesy of

Later in the afternoon, along the Hague in downtown Norfolk,
dozens of seagulls huddled together by the water's edge,
their breasts dazzling white in the sun.
Whiter than white, and better than snow,
whatever it might obscure.

No comments: