Masterpiece Monday: Poems About Winter

English: William Shakespeare statue in Lincoln...

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It’s the middle of December, which means the days are cold and dreary. As a fan of sun and surf, I absolutely loathe winter. It’s a season where plants die and animals hibernate, but I recognize it as necessary to appreciate all the rebirth that comes with spring.

So if the grey and gloomy skies are depressing you, here’s some exquisite poems about winter to cheer you up:

“Sonnet 97” by William Shakespeare

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time removed was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, 
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me 
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee, 
And, thou away, the very birds are mute; 
   Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
   That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

This Shakespearean sonnet is one relatively easy to understand. The speaker misses his beloved and compares his absence away to winter. I love all the imagery of “freezings,” “dark days,” and “bareness,” because they’re simple yet beautiful metaphors for loneliness–something everyone can relate to this time of year.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

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.

This poem is deceptively simple. I absolutely love its rhyme scheme, because the third line of each stanza is a prelude to the rhymes of the next stanza (here: queer, near, year; lake: shake, mistake, flake). The allusion to death is subtle, because the reader stops in the woods on “the darkest evening of the year.” He wants to rest in the “lovely, dark and deep” forest, but he “has promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep.” Of course, this poem has a literal level too, and it resonates with readers because we all have so much going on, so many things to achieve. We refuse to stop for long, because our obligations call us back to civilization.

“Spellbound” by Emily Bronte

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

This poem compares winter to death in a much more obvious way than Frost’s. The speaker can feel “the wild winds coldly blow,” but she refuses to let go of life. We’re not sure if this “tyrant spell” acts against her will, whether she actually wants to fall into the storm, but we admire her resilience nonetheless. When it seems like you’re fighting a losing battle, just remember: “nothing drear can move me;/I will not, cannot go.”

Let me know what you think of these snowy poems, and feel free to share your own favorites!

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3 thoughts on “Masterpiece Monday: Poems About Winter

  1. Pingback: Poem:You are a Masterpiece « Literary Chronicles

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