Friday, February 20, 2015

The Snow Man - Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Bleak and beautiful.  That is winter, in this Wallace Stevens poem.  Winter empties you, makes you into nothing, removes the framework from which you would see a winter scene and think of misery in the sound of the wind.  To have been "cold a long time" and to adjust oneself to winter allows you to see "nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."  You will no longer imagine or moralize the winter scene, but experience it, see it for what it truly is.

There's beauty in the sparse, precise descriptions of the poem.  "Junipers shagged with ice," "the distant glimmer of the January sun," "pine-trees crusted with snow."  It's the very kind of beauty of winter, and I know right now, I am having trouble appreciating that beauty.  We've had a particularly snowy winter, with more snow predicted for tomorrow, and I am getting sick of it.  Instead, I will think of this poem, and try to make myself "nothing" so that I may appreciate it, and not see the things that aren't there.

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