06 November 2013

The Winters - A December 1856 Poem

We did not fear them once — the dull gray mornings
No cheerless burden on our spirits laid :
The long night watches did not bring us warnings
That we were tenants of a house decayed.
The early snows like dreams to us descended;
The frost did fairy work on pane and bough;
Beauty and power, and wonder have not ended —
How is it that we fear the winters now?
Their house fires fall as bright on hearth and chamber:
Their northern starlight shines as coldly clear;
The woods still keep their holly for December;
The world a welcome yet for the new year.
And far away in old remembered places
The snow-drop rises and the robin sings;
The sun and moon look out with loving faces —
Why have our days forgot such goodly things?
Is it that now the north wind finds us shaken
By tempest fiercer than its bitter blast?
And fair beliefs and friendships have forsaken,
Like Summer's beauty, as that tempset passed?
And life grows leafless in its pleasant valleys
The light of promise waining from its day,
Till mists meet even in its inward palace, —
Not like the outer mists, to melt away?
It was not thus when dreams of love and laurels
Gave sunshine to the Winters of our youth,
Before its hopes had fallen in fortune's quarrels,
Or time had bowed them with its heavy truth —
Ere yet the twilight found us strange and lonely,
With shadows coming when the fire burns low,
To tell of distant graves and losses only —
The past that cannot change and will not go.
Alas ' dear friends, the Winter is within us; —
Hard is the ice that gathers round the heart,
If petty cares and vain regrets can win us
From Life's true heritage and better part.
Seasons and skies rejoice, yea, worship rather; —
But nations toil and tremble even as we;
Hoping for harvests they will never gather,
And dreading winters they may never see.
December 4, 1856. Farmer's Cabinet 55(18): 1.