Read these classic and contemporary poems about the coldest season from Robert Frost, Gillian Clarke, Edgar Allen Poe and more.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Appears in A Poem for Every Night of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri.
The dreamed Christmas,
flakes shaken out of silences so far
and starry we can’t sleep for listening
for papery rustles out there in the night
and wake to find our ceiling glimmering,
the day a psaltery of light.
So we’re out over the snow fields
before it’s all seen off with a salt-lick
of Atlantic air, then home at dusk, snow-blind
from following chains of fox and crow and hare,
to a fire, a roasting bird, a ringing phone,
and voices wondering where we are.
A day foretold by images
of glassy pond, peasant and snowy roof
over the holy child iconed in gold.
Or women shawled against the goosedown air
pleading with soldiers at a shifting frontier
in the snows of television,
while in the secret dark a fresh snow falls
filling our tracks with stars.
Appears in Selected Poems by Gillian Clarke
A Winter Bluejay
Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?
Edgar Allen Poe
Hear the sledges with the bells--
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Read the full poem in A Poem for Every Day of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri. #
Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly...
Appears in As You Like It, Act II Scene VII
At the Solstice
We say Next time we’ll go away,
But then the winter happens, like a secret
We’ve to keep yet never understand
As daylight turns to cinema once more:
A lustrous darkness deep in ice-age cold,
And the print in need of restoration
Starting to consume itself
With snowfall where no snow is falling now.
Or could it be a cloud of sparrows, dancing
In the bare hedge that this gale of light
Is seeking to uproot? Let it be sparrows, then,
Still dancing in the blazing hedge,
Their tender fury and their fall,
Because it snows, because it burns.
Appears in The Beautiful Librarians by Sean O’Brien
Shyly coated in greys, blacks, browns -
to keep us out of sight of the cold -
we weren't expecting this this morning: sun
and shadows, like a summer's evening, like summer
teasing. And not quite under the shelter on
the northbound platform, an old man, the sun
behind him, just his crown ablaze; and heading
southbound, a woman inching ever nearer
the platform edge, the light a tear
across her midriff, ribcage, shoulders, closer
and closer that dearest thing, completeness,
all her darkness light at the one time.
Appears in Misadventure by Richard Meier.
The Darkling Thrush
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.
Appears in the Collected Poems of Thomas Hardy, Macmillan Collectors Library edition.
It was winter, near freezing,
I'd walked through a forest of firs
when I saw issue out of the waterfall
a solitary bird.
It lit on a damp rock,
and, as water swept stupidly on,
wrung from its own throat
supple, undammable song.
It isn't mine to give.
I can't coax this bird to my hand
that knows the depth of the river
yet sings of it on land.
In the Bleak Midwinter
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Photo by Michael Hacker on Unsplash