Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's snowing here in Oregon this evening.  From what I see on the news, there's snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states today.  So I thought today would be a good day to post a poem about snow.  I just discovered this one, and I really like it.  I don't know that I've ever read poetry by Emerson (his philosophical works are not exactly my favorite), but I actually really like his use of iambic pentameter here, and the imagery is wonderful.
     This poem emphasizes the artistry of snowfall -- the snow-storm makes effortlessly beautiful formations -- and, obviously influenced by Romanticism's reverence for nature, contrasts this beauty with hard-wrought man-made efforts.  Emerson intentionally uses words which evoke human architectural construction to create a metaphor for the 'creations' which the snow-storm produces, but points out the wildness and illogic of the storm's architecture.

The Snow-Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow; and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
    Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry, evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake or tree or door;
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage; nought cares he
For number or proportion.  Mockingly
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

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