A tumultuous privacy of storm


snow buffaloAnnounced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.


That is the first stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s two-stanza “The Snow-Storm.” This is one of the rare winter poems, it would seem, that does not stereotype winter as being gloomy, cold, and hard, but that is open to its beauty. The final stanza:

Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.


Credit and Links

The photo, from the recent Buffalo, New York, snow storm was found in some connection with an NBC News website, but it is not clear who took the picture—a work of some photographer’s “astonished Art”—perhaps taken with a cellphone?

For those who would have more background on the poem, see The Snow Storm: Ralph Waldo Emerson — Summary and Critical Analysis.

While not wishing to ignore the recent suffering of some Buffalo area residents (human and otherwise), and while not wishing to belittle either how others have suffered from other extreme weather events, I do think we fail to appreciate as much as we might “the tumultuous privacy of storm” and other gifts of stormy weather. I wrote previously about this in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

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