Snow-Bound [The sun that brief December day]

John Greenleaf Whittier

 
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.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
    A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
    The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,--
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.
Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the wingèd snow:
And ere the early bed-time came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
        *
   
As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back,--
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."
The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the somber green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.
 

Poems by This Author

Abraham Davenport [excerpt] by John Greenleaf Whittier
In the old days (a custom laid aside
Among the Hills: Prelude [excerpt] by John Greenleaf Whittier
No time is this for hands long overworn
Brown of Ossawatomie by John Greenleaf Whittier
John Brown of Ossawatomie spake on his dying day
The Mystic's Christmas by John Greenleaf Whittier
The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier
Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun


Further Reading

Related Poems
Fragment 3: Come, come thou bleak December wind
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Poems about Snow
Balance
by Adam Zagajewski
Cherries in the Snow
by Richard Jones
Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost
Heavy Snowfall in A Year Gone Past
by Laura Jensen
How We Found Our Way
by Matthew Thorburn
Humoresque
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Iowa
by Kate Northrop
It sifts from Leaden Sieves - (311)
by Emily Dickinson
London Snow
by Robert Bridges
On Snow
by James Parton
Snow
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Snow Globe
by Kathy Fagan
Snow Song
by Frank Dempster Sherman
Snow-Flakes
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Snowfall in G Minor
by Marianne Boruch
Snowman
by Gu Cheng
Spring Snow
by Arthur Sze
The Snow Fairy
by Claude McKay
The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens
The Snow Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Snowdrop
by Anna Bunston De Bary
The Snowfall Is So Silent
by Miguel de Unamuno
White Days
by Priscilla Becker
Why Is the Color of Snow?
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Poems About Weather
(Soma)tic 5: Storm SOAKED Bread
by CAConrad
Becoming Weather, 21
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The Book of a Thousand Eyes [Rain, queen]
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A Line-storm Song
by Robert Frost
A Winter Without Snow
by J. D. McClatchy
An Octave Above Thunder
by Carol Muske-Dukes
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips
Dispatches from Devereux Slough
by Mark Jarman
Even the Rain
by Agha Shahid Ali
Flood
by Miyazawa Kenji
Flood
by Eliza Griswold
Great Sleeps I Have Known
by Robin Becker
History of Hurricanes
by Teresa Cader
Identity Crisis
by F. D. Reeve
In April
by James Hearst
Into Bad Weather Bounding
by Bin Ramke
It Was Raining In Delft
by Peter Gizzi
L’Avenir est Quelque Chose
by Dobby Gibson
November
by William Cullen Bryant
Now Winter Nights Enlarge
by Thomas Campion
Ode to the West Wind
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Passage I
by Maureen N. McLane
Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernández Cruz
Purism
by Vona Groarke
Radar Data #12
by Lytton Smith
Rain
by Claribel Alegría
Shells
by Elaine Terranova
Sitting Outside
by W. D. Snodgrass
Sleet
by Alan Shapiro
Snow
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Hurricane
by William Carlos Williams
The Snow Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Storm
by Theodore Roethke
The Woman and the Flame
by Aimé Césaire
Today A Rainstorm Caught Me
by Matt Hart
Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina Rossetti
Poems About Winter
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [Blow, blow, thou winter wind]
by William Shakespeare
Love's Labour's Lost, Act V, Scene 2 [Winter]
by William Shakespeare
A January Dandelion
by George Marion McClellan
A Winter Without Snow
by J. D. McClatchy
An Old Man's Winter Night
by Robert Frost
Approach of Winter
by William Carlos Williams
Fishing in Winter
by Ralph Burns
Footprint on Your Heart
by Gary Lenhart
Horoscope
by Maureen N. McLane
How like a winter hath my absence been (Sonnet 97)
by William Shakespeare
In drear nighted December
by John Keats
January
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Now Winter Nights Enlarge
by Thomas Campion
On Snow
by James Parton
Picture-books in Winter
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Places [III. Winter Sun]
by Sara Teasdale
Return to Winter
by Elaine Terranova
Spellbound
by Emily Brontë
spring love noise and all [excerpt]
by David Antin
The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy
The Magpie's Shadow
by Yvor Winters
The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens
The Snow Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Visionary
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There's a certain Slant of light (258)
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To a Locomotive in Winter
by Walt Whitman
Toward the Winter Solstice
by Timothy Steele
Triad
by Adelaide Crapsey
Untitled [Toward night]
by Kevin Goodan
Why Is the Color of Snow?
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Winter
by Walter De La Mare
Winter Heavens
by George Meredith
Winter is good - his Hoar Delights (1316)
by Emily Dickinson
Winter Morning
by William Jay Smith
Winter Sleep
by Edith Matilda Thomas
Winter Study
by Mark Wunderlich
Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams
Winter Twilight
by Anne Porter
Winter-Time
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Winter: My Secret.
by Christina Rossetti