November 12, 2003

Where Mind of Winter Comes From [Filed under: Stevens, Wallace]

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

This makes less sense [Filed under: Auden, W.H.]

Perhaps Auden’s last line points us to something about the type of cynicism that these poems exhibit. The view that the stars don’t, in fact, give a damn is born from an attempt to remove all personifiable qualities that would typically be attributed to stars (caring, watching-over, keenness in Frost’s words). What we’re left with when we strip the stars of all the mystical qualities (the ones that Bronte satirically gives them) is nothing but the pale and lifeless eyes of a statue. Perhaps Auden is inviting the question in his last line: Should we be doing this? And, if we do succumb to the cynical modern view of the stars, what are we left with when we stare at the nothingness?

PS: Do we have a second poem lined up for next week?