Winter Poems by Stevenson, Emerson, and Hardy

Thrushes in winter.

Thrushes in winter.

Sometimes a poem evokes the mood of a season more than anything else could. Here are three of my favorites for winter. The first, “Picture-books in Winter” by Robert Louis Stevenson, paints a lyrical picture of the joys of reading in a cozy nursery as the outside world grows frosty. The second poem, “The Snow Storm” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, vividly shares the “tumultuous privacy” and “frolic architecture” of a snow storm. The final poem is “The Darkling Thrush” by Thomas Hardy, which reveals the power in “the full-hearted evensong / Of joy illimited” from an aging thrush.

Each of these lovely pieces provides a different way of looking at winter and appreciating its beauty. One way to help your students absorb the equisite intricacy of poetic language is to have them copy their favorite poems into a notebook. This is also a good way to begin memorizing a poem for recitations. Enjoy!

Picture-books in Winter

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Summer fading, winter comes-
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children’s eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are,
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

The Snow Storm

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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 farmhouse at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveler 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.

The Darkling Thrush

by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

3 Responses

  1. Dana Carey says:

    What lovely poems! Perfect. Thanks for sharing this, Janice.

  2. Jenny says:

    These are beautiful. Thanks for posting them. It was refreshing to read after so much news and daily modern-ness. Very thoughtful of you. ~Jenny

  3. Abe Mayfield says:

    Beautiful poems…..i can almost feel the cold and snow on my face if I think with my eyes closed. Thank you for them.

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