Our winter library
A selection of poems that we think are perfect to read in winter
A Light Snow-Fall after Frost
On the flat road a man at last appears:
How much his whitening hairs
Owe to the settling snow's mute anchorage,
And how much to a life's rough pilgrimage,
One cannot certify.
The frost is on the wane,
And cobwebs hanging close outside the pane
Pose as festoons of thick white worsted there,
Of their pale presence no eye being aware
Till the rime made them plain.
A second man comes by;
His ruddy beard brings fire to the pallid scene:
His coat is faded green;
Hence seems it that his mien
Wears something of the dye
Of the berried holm-trees that he passes nigh.
The snow-feathers so gently swoop that though
But half an hour ago
The road was brown, and now is starkly white,
A watcher would have failed defining quite
When it transformed it so.
Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)
A Winter Hedgerow
The wintry wolds are white; the wind
Seems frozen; in the shelter'd nooks
The sparrows shiver; the black rooks
Wheel homeward where the elms behind
The manor stand; at the field's edge
The redbreasts in the blackthorn hedge
Sit close and under snowy eaves
The shrewmice sleep 'mid nested leaves.
William Sharp (1855–1905)
Dusk from a Train Window
There is a moment between day and night
When magic lives in light,
When snow upon the fields lies like blue sleep,
And the purple intricate trees
Stand out enchanged in the cold silences
Like branching mysteries;
A moment when one farm-lamp's window glow
Seems as I pass upon a speeding train
To make all human loss a sudden gain,
Because the ancient sacraments of home,
The humble sacraments of food and rest,
Are taken there in the untroubled gloam
By hearts that love, the ministrant, has blest.
There is a moment between day and night
When magic lives in light.
Cale Young Rice (1872–1943)
Conjured from matches and twists of paper,
the log-fire burns – a friend for a stranger,
warmth for damp days. Flames lean in and then turn,
swaying and waving, their heads raised in praise
of the moment. The heart sings in return:
ther is a sense of home, a place to laze,
enjoy the glow, somewhere to lose concerns
as movement and colour absorb your gaze.
Embers shift and stir, silhouettes form
of tigers, forests, castles, a box of jewels;
while in the flames themselves, a swirling storm
of plasma churns, as atoms and molecules
break and whirl. Light shines in this world of ours –
a hearth can hold the substance of the stars.
Isobel Montgomery Campbell (1956– )
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
New Every Morning
Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.
Susan Coolidge (1835-1905)
Shorter Poems II
Even in the city, I
Am ever conscious of the sky;
A portion of its frame no less
Than in the open wilderness.
The stars are in my heart by night;
I sing beneath the opening light,
As envious of the bird; I live
Upon the pavement, yet I give
My soul to every growing tree
That in the narrow ways I see.
My heart is in the blade of grass
Within the courtyard where I pass;
And the small, half-discovered cloud
Compels me till I cry aloud.
I am the wind that beats the walls
And wanders trembling till it falls;
The snow, the summer rain am I,
In close communion with the sky.
Philip Henry Savage (1868–99)
From bleakening hills
Blows doen the light first breath
Of wintry wind... look up, and scent
Adelaide Crapsey (1878–1914)
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
Edward Thomas (1878-1917)
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).
The Poetry of Earth
In rigorous hours, when down the iron lane
The redbreast looks in vain
For hips and haws,
Lo, shining flowers upon my window pane
The silver pencil of the winter draws.
When all the snowy hill
And the bare woods are still;
When snipes are silent in the frozen bogs,
And all the garden garth is whelmed in mire,
Lo, by the hearth, the laughter of the logs –
More fair than roses, lo, the flowers of fire!
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)
The True Beauty
He that loves a rosy cheek
Or a coral lip admires,
Or from starlike eyes doth seek
Fuel to maintain his fires;
As old Time makes these decay,
So his flames must waste away.But a smooth and steadfast mind,
Gentle thoughts, and calm desires,
Hearts with equal love combined,
Kindle never-dying fires: --
Where these are not, I despise
Lovely cheeks or lips or eyes.
Thomas Carew (1598-1639)
From Winter in Strathearn
She crumbled the brown bread, she crumbled the white;
The snow lay deep, but the crumbs lay light:
The sparrows swept down like withered leaves;
The starlings sidled with scarlet greaves.
And burnished, black green harness scrolled
With damaskings of dark old gold;
The gallant robin, he came not nigh.
But tom-tit sparkled a frightened eye;
The blue blackbird with his saffron bill
Hopped with the crowd; and the finches sped
With their scarves of white and their vests of red
From the sea-green laurels; and out of the hill,
Where the steep Blue-rocks stood, stark and grey,
A jackdaw flew; and the carrion crow
Frightened them now and again away,
Swooping down on the bloodless prey
All in the powdery snow-white snow.
She crumbled the brown bread, she crumbled the white,
She fed them morning, noon and night.
They fought and scolded till supper was done,
Then wing after wing went away with the sun.
John Davidson (1857–1909)