Poetry: Frost – A Patch of Old Snow

There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten —
If I ever read it.

Robert Frost, A Patch of Old Snow

I stumbled across this little poem recently. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve grown fond of short poetry. They leave much room for the imagination while limiting the scope by size and word choice. Such it was with this little one by Frost. Perhaps it is the season of life or the time of year, but this one touched my heart.

First, picture Frost. He is leaving somewhere, perhaps his home, for some pressing need, and he stops. A little something catches his eye. Most of the time, his haste would have had him dismiss that glimpse of white and joy for trash, a “blow-away paper” of little use or care. But he stops to give it his attention.

What does he see? It is snow. Not perfect, not crisp, not new. It has the marks of time on it, showing that it has been there for some time before he chanced a look at it. But it sat there, waiting, though it won’t stay forever. And now he too has been brought to rest.

But like a paper, this snow has a story on it. Little details of life, his past, the day. But until this point, he has ignored it. It is this that gives him pauce the most, I think. I love the last two lines especially. “The news of a day I’ve forgotten—/If I ever read it.” So he is the snow, and the snow is him. And there they stood, regarding each other in a frozen moment’s time.

Is this not our life? Here is this story, these days we lived, yet forgotten. Worse, we go through them without really living them. So we forget that small print etched from all our days, and some of those we never read, letting them depart before we took time to enjoy or give thanks for them. And so, we pass by our days, letting the joy, the snow, be overshadowed in our frantic haste. Then a little reminder causes us to rest and notice how quickly those joys will fade and the past will have been written.

This is a fascinating poem. Usually, snow brings thoughts of cold, joy, beauty, and perfection. But the snow is not about the snow, and here its fleeting life is dirtied by our passing, displaying our lack of appreciation for time, our life. Frost brings us no resolution, only reflection. An indirect call for us to notice that these joys are not just dirty papers but parts of our lives to embrace, enjoy, and treasure. They will melt away soon. So let us read them while we can lest they be forgotten.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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