Compliments of the season, today’s Poetry Sunday brings you “The Snowstorm” by the famous American transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston, son of a Unitarian minister, and at first looked set to follow in his father’s footsteps. But before he was 30, he walked away from even that liberal religious viewpoint to found a movement that was entirely his own, and authentically American.
The transcendentalist movement, which can best be described as rational and pantheistic, stressed the equality of all human beings, a rejection of revelation and church authority, and man’s deep interconnection with nature. Emerson’s rejection of Jesus’ divinity, not to mention his staunch support for the abolition of slavery, often led to outrage and saw him denounced as an atheist on one occasion. His famous essay “Nature” expresses his unique vision. His poems include “Concord Hymn”, “Threnody”, “Brahma” and “Days”. The following poem was written in 1847.
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 northwind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every wayward 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 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 snow.
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