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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Sprachkultur/Language culture‹  ›Kultur/Culture‹  ›EN‹   –  13.01.2013

The poetry of winter

Is winter cold, bleak and awful, or full of white, frosty magic? A season where everything dies a little, or the necessary prelude to a glorious rebirth? Definitely it’s a time to huddle around the warm fire and be creative. Why else are there so many poems about winter?

snowy winter fieldShakespeare already knew it: "Thy breath be rude," he famously said about winter in As You Like It. Winter often gets the short shrift in poetry, invoking the melancholy and inhospitable side of the season. Winter's metaphors include stillness, silence and darkness; it’s a season of solitude, endurance, even death. Some also express a sense of longing and inevitability about the descending blanket of snow, nature’s great equalizer.

On the other hand, there are the firm believers in the winter-wonderland. Those folks who are deeply intrigued by the snow and the promises it harbors, just like little Alice:

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently?” she pondered in Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. “And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again’”.

Winter lovers embrace the season for all its worth, but also have an eye for the big picture: if this is what it takes before we can celebrate the great spring awakening again, bring it on!

Whether you lean more towards the morose and enduring winter’s icy grasp with gritted teeth, or tend to rejoice in the wonders of each delicate snowflake, here are a few samples of the poetry of winter for you to enjoy.


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Out of the bosom of the Air
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

Winter Trees

By William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.