Poetry: Longfellow – Snow-flakes

Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Snow-flakes”

Longfellow paints a lovely picture in this simple, three-verse poem. When I read it, I can picture the silent snowflakes of a winter’s evening, even though there is no snow as I write this. I do not wish to overanalyze this poem, fearing that I might disturb its fragile simplicity. It is a straightforward yet opaque poem, describing the frosty world with all of its subtle implications. I love the repetition of syllables and letters, the sound it makes when read aloud as if I truly can hear the snowflakes as they land. I love how his poem depicts the snow’s descent yet also notes that this falling snow is the poem that the air writes to us. This poem tells us of heavenly messages, of griefs and despair, of blank confession now reflecting the viewer.

What does it all mean? Honestly, every time I read it, this poem means a little something else. It is the night before the start of Winter; it is Winter’s heart; it is the stark quiet when all have left, and I am alone; it is grief and hope of a coming joy not yet visible. And when I read it now, it is a picture of a lonely man staring into the evening’s cloudy woods, breathing out into the air his own deepest fears and hurts – perhaps now my own – along with the silent snow.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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