days came and went; the riotous bees
Tore the warm grapes in many
a dusty vine,
And men grew faint and thin with too much ease,
Winter gave no sign:
But all the while beyond the northmost woods
He sat and smiled and watched
his spirits play
In elfish dance and eery roundelay,
in many moods
With snowy curve and fairy crystal shine.
But now the
time is come: with southward speed
The elfin spirits pass: a secret
Hath fallen and smitten flower and fruit and weed,
every leafy thing.
The wet woods moan: the dead leaves break and fall;
In still night-watches wakeful
men have heard
The muffled pipe of many a passing
over hut and hall,
Straining to southward and unresting wing.
they come with colder feet, and fret
The winds with snow, and tuck
the streams to sleep
With icy sheet and gleaming coverlet,
fill the valleys deep
With curvèd drifts, and a strange music raves
Among the pines, sometimes in
wails, and then
In whistled laughter, till affrighted
close, and into caves
And earthy holes the blind beasts curl and creep.
And so all
day above the toiling heads
Of men’s poor chimneys, full
of impish freaks,
Tearing and twisting in tight-curled shreds
vain unnumbered reeks,
The Winter speeds his fairies forth and mocks
Poor bitten men with laughter
Turning the brown of youth to
white and old
And grey men young with roses in their cheeks.
thaws, when liberal water swells
The bursting eaves, he biddeth
drip and grow
The curly horns of ribbed icicles
a beard-like row.
In secret moods of mercy and soft dole,
Old warpèd wrecks and things
of mouldering death
That summer scorns and man abandoneth
careful hands console
With lawny robes and draperies of snow.
the night comes, his spirits with chill feet,
Winged with white mirth and
Across men’s pallid windows peer and fleet,
Draw with mute fingers on the frosted glass
Quaint fairy shapes of icèd
Pale flowers and glinting ferns
and frigid trees
meads of mystic grass,
Graven in many an austere phantasy.
But far away
the Winter dreams alone,
Rustling among his snow-drifts,
Cold fondling ears to hear the cedars moan
Strange answers of an ancient runic call;
Or somewhere watches with antique
Gray-chill with frosty-lidded
silvery moonshine fall
In misty wedges through the girth of pines.
haste and hide away: creep soon
Into your icy beds: the embers
And on your frosted panes the pallid moon
Is glimmering brokenly.
Mutter faint prayers that spring will come e’erwhile,
Scarring with thaws and dripping
days and nights
The shining majesty of him that
slays you with a smile
Upon his silvery lips, of glinting mockery.