Friday, January 22, 2016

Waiting for the storm

Back in the days when the only warnings of serious weather came shortly before the event from sky, air, or movements of animals, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote what may have been his masterwork, Snowbound: A Winter Idyll.

After a dedication-- 

To the Memory of the Household It Describes
This Poem is Dedicated by the Author

 --and quotations from Agrippa's Occult Philosophy and Emerson's poem "Snow Storm", the poem itself begins:

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.

Snowbound was published in 1866, soon after the Civil War and, with its vivid descriptions of a powerful storm and the contrasting warmth and intimacy of storytelling around the fireplace, proved hugely popular.

It was one of my favorite poems as a child, and these days its themes of memory, loss, and changing times mean much more to me than when I first read and loved it.  But it's been years since I read its many verses all the way through.

Tomorrow--as a storm blankets the East Coast with the kind of snow that may one day be only a distant memory--will be a good time to immerse myself in Snowbound once more. 

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