O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:

Here is a seasonal poem, in which William Blake celebrates or rather laments the impact of winter, in the spirit of the Grinch, Jack Frost, General Winter or any other personification of the coldest and most desolate season. Winter has taken over the northern hemisphere and there is no escape until the last two lines of the poem.

 

It is a desolate, but kind of magnificent vision.

 

To Winter

 William Blake

 

O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:

The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark

Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,

Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.’

He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep

Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathèd

In ribbèd steel; I dare not lift mine eyes,

For he hath rear’d his sceptre o’er the world.

 

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings

To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:

He withers all in silence, and in his hand

Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

 

He takes his seat upon the cliffs,–the mariner

Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal’st

With storms!–till heaven smiles, and the monster

Is driv’n yelling to his caves beneath mount Hecla.

William Blake

 

From <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/to-winter/>

 

First, two explanatory  notes may be needed. In the first line, the meaning of “adamantine” is unbreakable (well I had to look it up…). And in the last line of the poem, Mount Hecla is not a place in Greek mythology, it is a real place, the most active volcano in southern Iceland, and presumably the last refuge of winter when spring forces him back to his lair. (Those who remember Jules Verne’s story, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” will remember that the route to the center of the earth also started from a volcano in Iceland.)

 

So for most of this poem, winter is depicted like some giant monster, bringing frozen desolation everywhere he goes, dreadful but impressive. Mere mortals, like the poet, must lower their eyes, hunker down and just wait for that moment when heaven smiles and Winter starts to retreat to his cave.

 

 

 

The Poetry Dude

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